Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Gumbo


Thankfully a really long and trying week is about to end. 

Bill on the road as I post with a friend on his way to Dragon*Con in Atlanta.  No he isn't wearing a costume but he has been talking about this trip since he booked it a year ago.   After his help while I was in Kenya this is some payback to take a guys weekend.  I truly hope he has a great time, but he better not come home with a costume.

Mom will be engaging in some Camp Mommy, the Overnight edition until he returns on Monday late.  Several plans have fallen through, but in actuality I really need some time at home.  I have quite a lot of work to do to get ready for next week as well as grading and contacting parents, especially for those repeating the class. 

I've decided that I'm taking tonight off phoning in dinner, doing a movie night with the kids and going to bed uber early.  I'm planning on getting up at 5 for the next three mornings to maximize getting work done before the boys are up. 

Ben finished the week with most days with a good report. We've had some meltdowns at home, but honestly I'd rather deal with it at home than at school.

Transitions just suck.  Amen.  

Luckily I feel we have a teacher that is willing to work with us and support what we are doing at home. As tradition started last year I left a thank you card for her and her assistant with Bojangles biscuit giftcards and a note thanking them for working with us. 

It's the little things I hope will make crazy early morning better.  I can't imagine a room of 6 year olds at 7:30 in the morning. 

Earlier this week I was buying stuff for my class, already over $100 bucks spent since we have ZERO supply budget this year again.  Not one but two different random sales clerks thanked me for teaching kids.  Maybe it was because I had the bedraggled teacher look, or just still had on my work badge, but those little comments made a really trying day better. 

So we end a really long crappy week with some really crappy phone photos from this week 

Ben wanted to make something for his teacher from this book I got from the library about crafts using paper plates.  Something tells me there's going to be more made this weekend.  This is a self portrait and his dog. Note it is pitch black dark when the kids get up at 6:10.

My salvation this week working late each night after the kids were in bed. CHEESE!! A couple of nights I didn't even get as far as a plate. Note the fig preserves, full on Monday. 

Some days you just gotta buy something for yourself.  How about favorite yellow lilies, (another) to-do list pad, and scored 1/2 half off a label maker.  Just let me get caught up with school work and I'm about to be a labeling fool.

Happy labor day folks, hope you are spending part of it relaxing. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1st day mayhem

Let's go back to Sunday where I took advantage of my school  being open on Sunday afternoon for some last minute copying, pulling class lists, making seating charts.  I'm fairly sure that on my tombstone it will say cause of death will be attempting to unjam a copier using only a ballpoint pen and my MacGyver wits.

After leaving we had a fun afternoon playing outside until dinner when the stove went out in the middle of trying to make a nice back to school dinner.  It's now Wednesday and I still haven't had time to research or even call a repair company.  Local people, suggestions?  As expected the home warranty just lapsed.

Needless to say we've been living on dorm room food of sandwiches, cereal, and takeout.  Bill and I sat down with Ben and helped make sure he had packed his supplies, had a talk about riding the bus (which is a major deal as our elementary and middle school now share the same bus.)  We also talked about behavior and reminded him that he needed to make good choices from boarding the bus to after school program.  

Fast forward to 5 am when I am up at my new start time.  I am making every effort to not only be up earlier, but also to leave earlier due to traffic.  I'm also helping more with getting the boys up and ready starting at 6 am.  I still have some large bandages and tape from the surgery on Thursday so I switched outfits to wear a shirt with longer sleeves and into white linen pants.  I'm thinking first day impression that bandages hanging out of my clothes sends a creepy message like I moonlight with a 2nd job that involves lots of knives.  Instead I find out hours later I sent an entirely different message.  

Ben makes the bus at 6:50 am, Ian is dropped at day care, my day with my new students begin.  I have all Civics classes this fall and am picking up US History for the first time in 13 years teaching in the spring due to a curriculum conversion. Yay to being out of World History, all freshmen purgatory, but lots of work in the next two years ahead.  

Somewhere around noon I realize that the wardrobe change was revealing a little more than I wanted, as in the black lace showing through kind.  I do ALOT of walking in my classes so I'm fairy sure that instead of having the kids wondering if I was involved in some type of chainsaw accident I'm now really showing uh.. my assets.  I ask my friend next door and she busts out laughing and says, "well you kinda can't tell, ok.. I'm not going to lie it's really noticeable, but at least their not red."  Thanks, as I'm now even more self conscious as I head into my two afternoon classes, filled with repeaters who I will need my game face on, even this 1st day.  Luckily I find ways all class to hug the wall as I'm circulating the room. 

After school I get an email about Ben's behavior from his teacher.  Do you remember last year on the first day of school when his teacher met me at the door at pick up?  Somehow I rationalize that an email detailing defiance, talking back, being disruptive as somehow better.  

It's not. 

I'm mortified and contact Bill and respond back to his teacher.  She asked about his medication to which Bill and I have been talking about a stepped up dose.  I get to after school with hopes that he has not already burned one of his three strikes on the first day.  I talk to the director who assures me that while he had a rocky start she helped him find a place in the homework room with little distraction (aka facing a wall) and that they talked about making good choices in the after school program.  

We make it to day care where my ever fearless toddler has again shocked his teachers with his ability to weather most any injury.  Seriously I thought at one point that Ian has the disease where you can cut off your finger and not even realize it. "Brush it off" has all new meaning for Ian Vinson. We make it home in a hour of 5 o clock traffic, fix dinner or some semblance of dinner.

Since it was crack of dawn and I was already gone as of 6:15 for work, we shot our 1st day of school pictures after dinner.  

Ben and Ian were chanting "too cool for school" and striking some rock star poses. 

Ian wanted pictures in his "pack pack".  Seriously, this kid makes me smile even on the longest of days.

Ben actually let me plant a big kiss on his cheek.  Please let this year somehow easier.  Please let me not be on a first name basis with his teacher by the end of September.  

We never could get Ian to stand still for a photo, so we opted for an action shot instead.  

I'm happy to report that Tuesday was a better day for all and I did do a last minute wardrobe check as not to pull another malfunction.  To date Janet Jackson hasn't called and asked for her fame back.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer 2012, a Love Letter

Dear Summer 2012,

I'll just say upfront you rocked it.  Your brought it like a roundhouse kick to the face.

This year has already been pretty awesome but you outdid yourself.  On your final day you gave us a beautiful, sunny warm but not hot day to enjoy outside, soaking up every last minute of you.

Here's the thing summer, as a classroom teacher I bring it for 10 straight months to tomorrow's future.  Not all students appreciate it, many spend every single of their 180 days in my class waiting for you to come around just as soon as you leave every late August.

But I appreciate you in a way the the younger generations lack the maturity to fully understand your magical powers.  Over the last 8 weeks you gave me extra sleep, time to stay up late reading or watching tv, eating many a cheese plate and enjoying a giant glass of something frosty, hanging out on porch (es).  That right summer, I love you so much I have not one but two awesome porches to enjoy you.

We filled our days with a mix of 1/2 day camps from Jr. Jazzercise to Y Wee Camp.  Mom planned many a  field trip with the V boys in tow. We spent days at the pool waterslide racing, playing T ball, taking swim lessons, going to the library weekly for a fresh crop of books, even making crazy art projects from the recycling bin. We ate ice cream every chance we could and grilled out many a dinner.  

You allowed us to spend not one but almost three total weeks soaking up your gorgeous Florida sunshine over two trips. You totally went the extra mile, ok  more like close to 14,000 miles, to show me that summer not only rocks it in North America, but in Africa as well.

I totally will give you that not every day was spectacular, fireworks inducing awesome.  With a fearless toddler and off the wall at times 6 year old the days were often long, but in my maturity I know our time at these ages is short.

How many times did I respond to someone who likened "two boys... what a handfull," with a lighthearted, "Yeah, two boys are a good weight loss plan, since you are in constant motion."

My precious V-boys, this summer rocked because we took time to play.  All three of us.

Summer, as much as it pains me to leave you for a new crop of eager/forced students tomorrow itching to learn about US Government, I will leave you with a parting gift.

Some of my favorite shots to remember you by:

Summer forecast:  hot, humid and a 100% chance of cuteness

A whole summer of don't tell him that he couldn't or shouldn't, because he went ahead and did

Pool / Out of Pool ratio very lopsided during our Florida road trip in June

Don't mess with people in hats, especially ones attempting to score Midway Mania Tickets

Got a child-free afternoon at the beach?  Got access to the inlaws convertible?  
Oh the places you will go!

Just how big was that waterslide on your 6th birthday?


Until next year Summer, 

Mom and the V boys

Friday, August 24, 2012

3rd Time and Done

Yesterday was my 3rd and final surgery.  Compared to the other two this was easy, peasy with only an hour and a half on the table and was under local, not general anesthesia.  Actually when I went in to plan this final procedure my surgeon told me most people would opt to do this under general but, ok by now I think you can finish what he said next.  Actually since every penny has been out of pocket, this final call was in part to to finances, that and sheer stubbornness not to have a prolonged recovery.

This last surgery was a clean up to finish up some odds and ends that due to the maximum time under before couldn't be performed.  It was a little weird that I was semi awake for this round although I asked if I could be drugged up as possible .  Key to me picking up Demerol and Halcion earlier this week when the pharmacist asked if I was planning some type of wild back to school party. Note to self:  don't pick up controlled substances while wearing your work ID. Actually, I love my pharmacist, who let me take advantage of free grocery promotion for new prescriptions, even though I had no refills.

I was totally loopy by the time the surgery started, and a few times roused up in pain, to which Dr. C graciously shot me up with more local.  A few times I did feel him cutting and was really glad that I wasn't fully with it.  I have a high pain tolerance and think that I pushed it about as far I could.  

Bill arrived close to my finish time, helped me get to the car, got me home and in bed, went to pick up the kids and then took the boys to Ben's t-ball end of season party.  I slept until around 8 when I woke up and had no idea where I was or that I had surgery.  Luckily good painkillers are just that... GOOD.  I did wake up around 3 am and couldn't go back to sleep, so I packed day camp lunch, cleaned up the kitchen, answered work email to say I wouldn't be in on Friday.

An old version of me would have powered through and forced myself to go in to work.  Luckily I'm not living with the old version, instead someone who values rest and actively sets limits.

When I was in Florida earlier this summer, I took  an afternoon, as well as my in laws' convertible out shopping, eating shrimp, and walking on the beach alone at Seaside.  I happened by this little store and bought myself this jewelry box with a slogan I love.  Once home I've filled it with the Kazuri beads I bought in Kenya.

I think I may adopt it as a mantra.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

4 Final Kenya Pictures

I had intended to make the post about our final amazing day in Michura the last thoughts about Kenya but then I found these final photos over the weekend.

I don't think anything can capture the beauty of this country better than a sunrise over the savannah.

maybe the beautiful smiles of children with hearts open, chasing our bus down the road.

or being surrounded by kids watching a soccer game under a giant tree

or this picture of the day Siprin and I were talking in her classroom.  I had no idea this picture was ever taken, but it's one to treasure.

Over the weekend I finished up thank you letters to friends who helped me financially make this trip possible.  I included the following thought.

The Michuran people are poor in material goods but wealthier than most in their relationships.  After spending five days among their families, their want for the best possible education for their children as a ticket to a successful future is not much different from my own for my sons. While our lifestyles are different, our hearts are the same.  I have returned to my family and friends with a purpose to be more intentional in all of my relationships. 

As a new school year starts back tomorrow in teacher workdays, as the boys are back into the groove of school in the next days, as our lives return to a full, packed schedule I pause on that last idea about being more intentional in all my relationships.  

The last eight weeks of summer vacation from teaching have been magical. Of course not every minute perfect or not without trying moments, but simply wonderful days filled with time with my family, with friends from years ago or those I get to see often.  I've read more, slept more, and simply been lazy in a way I can't remember ever doing. 

Life unfolds as a series of chances to say yes.  What can you say yes to in your life?  Even taking the smallest chance out of the comfortable, the normal can lead to amazing places.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

A small piece of the bigger picture

I didn't mention one major thing that happened on Tuesday as it directly relates to the events of our final day in the village on Wednesday 8/8.  Life does not happen by chance or consequence.  Sometimes we only understand the smallest of slivers of reasons in the bigger picture.

On this trip I often learned that I had to trust in the moment that the next piece would fall into place, I had to trust people I barely knew with my life and my health, I had to trust that I was being asked serve at times not knowing the final outcome.

I tended to sit near the front on of van each day since even on paved roads the ride could make you nauseous.  Jennifer and I were chatting away when I look out the window and see a large black tractor truck barreling towards us in our lane.  By this point, I am getting used to our driver, Patrick swerving around people and animals, at times places were the road was washed out.  Several days into the daily drive over a giant mountain on a dirt road with no safety rail as gas trucks were passing us it didn't even phase me.

On that Tuesday all I remember is screaming and we are swerving into the shoulder and I hear and feel the sound of air swoosh past my open window just seconds after the truck passed still in our lane.  Thankfully Patrick swerved without hitting animals, people walking sometimes even laying beside the road.  He didn't hit women in their open air markets or throngs of kids in school uniforms walking along the road. Of all the places he had to run off the road, he did so without hurting anyone.  Patrick was visibly shaken and remarked later that night that we came very, very close to a full on head on collision.

But we didn't, because August 8th was meant to be.

Rewind back to the planning meeting Jennifer and I are having with one of our trip leaders when I ask, "do the kids have a picture of themselves, do they know what they look like?"   Too bad the Polaroid picture is about as obsolete as a rotary phone.  Just as I say this, TJ pulls out the next generation of instant developing camera and our final activity comes together.

We used the scripture about how God has made everyone different and knows everything about us.  We opted to make snowflakes to symbolize our differences.  Why snowflakes? The kids have studies snow and can even see snow on far away mountains, but have never experienced it.  Plus we needed something to hold a picture that we would take of each of them with the camera.

Want to see pure joy?  Watch children first looking at pictures of themselves for the first time.  Help a child unfold a snowflake piece by piece and watch their face in amazement.  Both were surreal experience and I wanted to simply sit back absorbing every bit of goodness that was unfolding layer by layer.

But something else happened and pulled me away from the pictures and snowflakes. Siprin came and found me and lead me by the hand to her classroom.  She wanted to show me her work and where she sat in her standard 5 classroom.  In front of her notebook was a handwritten calendar by year and month of how many days she had attended school. Sadly there were months marked, "zero."  My heart is breaking for this girl, who has so much potential but yet handicapped by circumstance.

She read for me some of her lessons, tells me about subjects and topics she likes. She told me how she tries to come to school as much as she can, but is needed at home to help with her deceased sister's three year old now in their care.  She is one of 7 children and in her quiet way she told me wants to go to secondary school.  I told her that Beatrice knows she is a good student and is working hard to be at school as much as she can.

If I had come thousands of miles just to have this conversation with Siprin, it would have been worth it, but the day was not finished and I only have a small piece of the unfolding day. We used up all the pictures on the kids when some of the adults also asked for photos.  One older man in particular asked us to help him make a snowflake for a picture.  My offhand comment about not knowing what you look like was being revealed in the most amazing of ways.  Everywhere you looked groups were gathered looking at each others pictures.

About 30 minutes before we were to start a closing ceremony Beatrice came over with an older man and lady and introduced them as Siprin's parents. Siprin as well as other siblings and the 3 year old quickly came over and asked to take a family picture.  Beatrice helped translate and we took a few moments to dote on Siprin as a good student who we all wanted to go on in her education.  Beatrice explained what "sponsorship" meant and the expression of gratitude turned into a giant hug from her mom.

Her mother asked me about my family and I shared with her I had given Siprin when we met for the first time, a pictures of my family including my brother.  When she asked about my parents, I answered they were deceased.  I never let on that today was in fact the one year anniversary of my mom's death. In the days leading up to the trip I prayed that whatever was to come to get through that day would make itself known, even in the smallest measure.

And it did.

Her mother exclaimed, "you will also be our daughter for what you are giving from your heart for our family.  We want to pray over you and thank you."  Her mom held my hands in hers and I will never know exactly what she was praying in their native dialect of Swahili, but it didn't matter.  It was everything I needed to hear on that day to know that even in death my mom was with me still.  Siprin and her mom walked me over to the start of the closing celebration and the three year old climbed in my lap as the ceremony began.

There was drumming, dancing, shouting all to the accompaniment of a storm that we could see rolling in from the distance.  For the next 15 or so minutes the clouds got darker, the wind picked up so much at times those giving good bye speeches including a representative from the school, the elders, Abraham, our beloved 410 Guide, had to almost scream to be heard over the coming storm.

Then as more dancing and drumming began to close the celebration we were presented with gifts. That would be when I totally lost it and began sobbing as Siprin and her mom come to me and take off the hat I had worn all week and replaced it with one they had made as well as a handmade basket as gifts for my family.

While I had heard that gifts were part of the celebration and that even if you knew that the Michuran people could make money instead for their family by selling them in the Kisumu markets, to accept all gifts with open arms.  It was truly giving you a piece of themselves as remembrance of your brief time in their village.

The celebration is cut short as a quick prayer is offered because the storm has now reached the village and it is raining.  Not just raining, but pouring rain like some type of prophecy.  Siprin is holding my hand and now both she and I are soaking wet as we as we make the last trip down the path to the van.

I hug her goodbye and choke out that I will see her again.

On August 8th, 2011 I asked what the other side of living without my mom would look like going forward.  I had no idea that the small piece of a the bigger picture lie thousands of miles away with a 12 year old Kenyan girl and her family, all now part of my extended family.

I think about that last day in Michura and cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that I didn't bail on going on the trip when I realized the overlapping dates.  I cannot begin to tell you how much over the past year, Sunday by Sunday, I've let go of grief and pain over my mom's death as well as found ways to celebrate her life.

What I would not do to tell her in person of the amazing 5 days spent half a world away with these joyous and pure in heart Kenyans.  I know on some level she knows because she was part of that rainstorm as well as the blessings bestowed on my by Siprin's family.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fingerpaint, bubbles, and home visits

Thank you friends who has private messaged me how much they are enjoying the day to day wrap up.  While I write everything here for some type of personal record, I appreciate knowing you were thinking and praying for our teams safety and that our work would be fulfilled.

About two weeks before we left our team got our official assignment from 410 bridge.  The other teams from our church had previously set up a week-long medical clinic for vaccinations and deworming as well a team that worked specially on rock removal near the well project.

Our team was asked to complete two tasks during our five days in Michura:  to paint the exteriors and roofs of the school buildings and to work with 4 standards (grades) of village children.  Take a wild guess which team I wanted to serve and plan.  Among our team was another teacher who teaches middle school math.  We worked to plan based on given curriculum but were allowed to come up with crafts and games on our own and based on what we could feasibly bring with us on the plane.

We were allowed one carry on  bag and a back pack per team member so we were able to use our team checked bags to carry in supplies including fingerpaint, crayons, scissors, constriction paper, balls, bubbles, a  parachute, and instant exposure film.  The last item deserves it's own post about how and what we did on our final day.

Monday 8/6- We arrived in Michura and met our teacher counterparts for the week, Beatrice, mentioned yesterday, and Eunice, teacher of the Standard 1 class of 6 and 7 year olds.  We were welcomed at the bus by many of the children who took us by the hand and walked with us to their classroom.

Thirty children are enrolled in Eunice's class, which is an Introduction to school class.  Over our days of working with her I can dare say that she is the real thing.  A teacher to be reckoned with and would easily translate into any classroom in the US.  She is resourceful in ways that good teachers are, but with the handicap of having nearly none any classroom supplies.  Books are few and must be shared, she distributes pencils which we collected at the end of the day.  So many times Jennifer and I quickly realized that she, not we could take our frame of a lesson and add so much more with her quit wit and knowledge of her students.
The older students attend school in one of  8 classrooms.  The two school buildings are the only structures in the central village area.

On Monday we found a place to hold class, not surprisingly under a tree in the shade.  We set up with some of the desks from the classroom with the kids sprawled out among us.  The kids learn English in class, but still have broken language and we needed help with translation.  We taught a song with hand motions that we would practice each day.  We did a story, Bible verse, and then craft.  On the first day we made handprint hearts with the fingerpaint.

According to Eunice, it was the first time they had seen fingerpaint and needed us to show them that it was ok to get messy.  Once they got the hang of the paint, it was pure joy to watch their excitement to see their hands in paint.  We helped the kids clean up with good ol' baby wipes, which in itself showed a level of trust and proximity to clean their hands.  Several of the mothers seemed surprised that we took the kids by the hands and gently rubbed the paint from each.

While the paint was drying we pulled out the parachute, another first.  Check out the expression of the kids faces when they realized they could go under the parachute.  We played popcorn with a ball onto of the parachute and then moved directly into soccer. Likes flies to honey as soon as the soccer ball came out the kids went nuts.  The kids have goals made of two large branches at each end of the main common area and use a soccer ball made of plastic bags.

After lunch our team played community games.  What I thought would be playing with the kids was quickly replaced with the men of the village "warming up" as in were running laps awaiting us to finish lunch.  Most of the men played barefoot to our 6 male team members.  The game lasted almost 2 hours during the hottest part of the day.  Other than one of our female team members, who plays club soccer and runs track/field at high school at home, none of our female team members opted to play.  Instead I found a shady tree and quickly was surrounded with children intently watching the game.  Nearby some of the older girls were watching and giggling at our lone female player.  I later found out that several of the girls idolized Shirley and were amazed she was playing as well as the boys.

We wrapped up the day with a men vs women tug of war.  Not surprisingly, the men won.  And boy did they celebrate!

We left Monday tired but exhilarated by the kids and adults we had worked alongside.

Tuesday 8/7- I was excited today that we were going to be making home visits in the afternoon to keep house, cook and share a meal with one of the village families.  With the kids we again pulled out the fingerpaint and painted on a set of large cut out animals including zebras, giraffes, hippos, and elephant.  We wanted to leave something that Eunice could use in her classroom.

Then came bubbles.  Wow.  By day two our games group now had doubled in size.  Kids were chasing the bubbles, those with shoes were throwing them to burst them, the teachers and some of the adults came over from painting and asked to blow bubbles with us.

After lunch we broke into three teams to visit homes.  I had the honor of visiting Beatrice's home were we where we first prayed as a group and she allowed us to tour her home. Beatrice has 12 children, 9 living and is a widow.  Her walls were covered with pictures of her children and late husband.  My favorite was of her in college with an ear to ear smile.  Beatrice is the real deal, a leader among her community, to the women whom she leads an empowerment group leader in which they pool their money and buy a rotating member something new each month.  She proudly told me of the dishes, pots, and utensils purchased in the last year.

In Michura, most homes have an outdoor kitchen where all food is prepared.  Near the home are chickens, goats, corn fields. Today we would making a fish stew with ugali.  Ugali is a staple in the michuran diet and is similar to cornmeal mush.  In the absence of utensils, it can be formed into a soft ball to sop up food like a spoon.  It's also really good and most nights at the hotel I enjoyed it with kale and sweet potatoes.

Each of us helped clean the fish and stir the ugali. We returned to inside the home to share the meal of one fish and a large pot of ugali.  The food was great and being able to participate and talk about daily life including the four hour round trip walk for clean water.  Everywhere you see children and women carrying jugs of water.  I was most impressed with those who can carry water on their heads!

I've had several people ask about the water project which is estimated to be finished in 12-18 months.  Here is current progress as captured the week we visited.  The project will run pipes from the top of the mountain where the clean water exists and filter it before it reaches a large reservoir with a pump.  If curious, the pond near our bus is the current town closest water source.

It can be boiled to remove some impurities, but remains dirty and brown.  Rain is scarce in Michura and only 1-2 days of rain occurs each month. All homes have rain collection gutters and homemade tanks.

Something Beatrice said to me really stuck, "our life here is hard, we acknowledge this, we accept this challenge, we are called to make the best of what we have."  What an amazing woman and an honor to have prepared a meal in her home.

I had the chance while we were cooking to ask her about my sponsor child, Siprin.  Beatrice shared with me how she is an excellent and disciplined student with so much potential, but her family had endured much sadness.  She shared with me that in 3 years Siprin will take the national Kenyan secondary school exam and that she had odds to secure a placement at one of the boarding secondary schools.

I asked if possible could I meet her parents and share our mutual desire for Siprin to continue in school.  I had actually met Siprin on Sunday, but want to tell of our meeting and the amazing events that would transpire the next day in the events of August 8th.  She is a sweet, shy, and loving girl.  She met me at the bus on Tuesday and held my hand walking me into the village.  Little did I know how much the next 24 hours  would hold for our final day, but once home a week later and I am still thinking about those last few hours and am speechless.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing for the rehearsed and the un-rehearsed

Sunday 8/5- We returned to Michura for worship.  There are four churches that serve the community including the aptly named Power of Jesus Temple.  One of the things I remembered about the introductions from the day before was the way in which the tribal leaders introduced themselves, praise to God, an example of God's mercy in their life, and THEN their name.

Here was our church, under a giant tree overlooking the valley below.  One of the things I loved is throughout the first hour of a 3 hour service more and more community members streamed in as the singing increased in volume.

There was prayers, singing, shouting, more praying, then sermons by two of the four pastors. Silas, one of the community members and who is the 410 Bridge lesion to the community translated much of the service.

Our team was asked to sing and give testimony and favorite scripture.  By the end of the service I dare say I've never heard God referenced as "pregnant and wanting to give birth to new life." It was hands down one of the most spirited messages I've ever heard.  The service, the music, and especially the outdoor setting was a celebration of the faith and testament that God is very much a presence in their daily lives.

After lunch, which was prepared and boxed by our hotel daily, we broke into three groups of a men's bible study, women's, and youth.  My teammate Jennifer, also a teacher, and I were asked to lead the women's group.  Before we left Jennifer and I reviewed the lesson we were asked to teach about responsibly and had the chance to talk to another of the 410 Bridge staff who lives and works in Nairobi.  We had questions about what topics should we focus on and those to shy away from as to be respectful of our cultural differences.

As we sat overlooking this beautiful vista surrounded by about 30 women dressed in every color and print we began in prayer.  Somehow it fell to me to open in prayer and I prayed that the rehearsed as well as the un-rehearsed would come forth and bring us together.  I was really nervous, despite talking all day for a living.

This felt different than daily teaching and surrounding us were the faces awaiting what were were bringing from a very far away place.  Jennifer and I introduced ourselves and  mothers, teachers, followers of Christ.  We received clapping that we are teachers. A first for both of us and evidence of the importance on education in the community.  Once we were finished, Beatrice, the wonderful leader of the village women's group and only female tribal elder asked if we wanted the women to introduce themselves.

What transpired next was amazing and the women through Beatrice's interpretation conveyed their faith in God despite hardships, deaths of children, spouses, the sheer hard work each performed just to live.  What was spoken was who was related to whom, how many children they had both living and dead.  It was their chance to identify themselves, free from the shadow of the men.

Near the end of our lesson all attention shifted to a game of Duck, Duck Goose called Zebra, Zebra, Lion in Kenya.  The women were straining to see the growing noise and sounds of children laughing and chasing each other.  Jennifer and I looked at each other and as teachers, retooled on the fly and opted to close in prayer.

As tradition, the women kneeled in the dirt as did we.  Beatrice looked over and says, "Not you. you are leading the prayer. You stand."  I was humbled. Somehow I again was the one speaking and closing us in prayer.  I asked the women again to name either out loud or in their hearts their requests.  As we started the prayer the kids voices began to drown us out so I wrapped up the prayer for,"God to give us the same joy of the children in our daily lives."

At the end, the women broke out in song, shouting and dancing.  Jennifer and I as well as our other female teammates Diana and Jessica gladly took part and garnered the attention of the men's group who were now watching and clapping along.  It was a celebration that despite the language barrier, we were all women. For months I've thought about how the struggles and want for a better lives transcended cultural barriers.  We all love our families and our children from the same heart. On that Sunday it was evident.

As we were leaving and walking back to our bus two of the oldest ladies among the group grasped my hands and walked me back over the rocky road.  As would become common in the days ahead, both in greeting and parting goodbye, hugging and the clasping of both hands connecting us together became the norm.

Truly a beautiful day filled with the shared experience of worship and celebration in faith in God. As far as church experiences it was literally a mountaintop moment.