My sister-in-law just got back from a trip to Africa.
Hearing her retell the stories from her adventure brought back so many memories from the trip that I took to Kenya many years ago. I was 18, living in California, attending ministry school, and had the privilege of joining in on a mission trip to Nyahururu, Kenya. Stevie and I were engaged, our wedding was just a few months away. It was part of our school's program to send students on a mission trip, and when we looked at the long list of countries that were options, I only saw "Kenya". I just wanted to go to Kenya. To this day, I don't know why it stood out to me so strongly. I never thought much about traveling, especially to Africa. But when I saw "KENYA" on the list, I knew it was the place I had to go and serve. Little did I know, it would just be the beginning of many, many adventures.
I told Stevie, "Go wherever you want on your trip, but I'm going to Kenya!", to which he responded, "Alright, well I'm going with you." And we did! We loved our experience there SO much, mostly because the people are the most beautiful kind. The sunshine literally smiles out of their eyes.
We divided our time between the local church, ministry school, orphanage, and community at large. Sharing our faith with people we didn't know. Discussing our differences. Realizing the similarities. Sometimes agreeing to disagree. Sometimes praying together. Sometimes witnessing miracles occur. Sometimes laughing together, eating porridge out of coffee mugs while standing in the burning hot sun. Sometimes weeping together, holding hands and hearing horrendous personal accounts of the Rwandan genocide. Hearing stories like that from people younger than myself, well, that cuts deep enough to make you really think. And really pray.
Our time in Kenya made a long-term impact on Stevie and myself. Though it's been 8 years since we spent time on the ground there, we still feel extremely connected to the vision of the orphanage that we visited. Stevie eventually got a job with the orphanage, properly named Heroes of the Nation, and he worked remotely on projects for the organization from our home in California. Heroes is a special place. If you're interested in learning more about the largest orphanage in Kenya, boasting the best test scores, a self-sufficient business model and children who believe they will grow up to be leaders in their country, you should check it out and consider a gift.
I purposely didn't post any of our photos from the orphanage, because I don't want to be presumptuous and share photos of the children without each of their permission.
Although we spent the bulk of our time in Kenya in the village of Nyahururu, a gorgeously lush little hamlet tucked up in the mountains of the famed Thompson Falls, we did manage to take a trek down to the Masai Mara. This was where we had the incredible opportunity to visit with some of the Masai tribe. Can I just say that these people are suuuuuuper stylish? They're gorgeously tall, they can jump so high, and they just have so much inherent personal style. That might sounds weird, especially coming from someone like me (I have no authority on fashion), but you could just feel an incredible presence about these people. They stood with proper posture, proud of their heritage, adorned in the brightest colors and chiming jewelry. They were kind enough to show us around their village and share some of their tribe's traditions. Like how they start a fire from scratch and how to build a hut out of cow dung. Think about it - that's pretty impressive. And they jumped. THEY JUMPED SO HIGH.
Perhaps one of my favorite memories from our time with the Masai was at the end of one of the evenings, after dinner. Everyone was relaxed, out of the "put on your gameface, we're in Africa!"-mode. We were just getting ready to go to sleep in our tents, but someone thought it would be a good idea to hook up a laptop to a very sketchy, sparking outlet and watch the movie Nacho Libre. All I can say is, laughing with a few of the Masai while watching Jack Black act like a fool, all in the middle of this rugged, world-renowned National Park... well, that's a memory that no one will ever be able to take away from me. It's emblazoned upon my mind for, pretty much, forever.
|They can jump SO HIGH.|
|See what I mean about style? SO MUCH STYLE.|
It was in the Masai Mara that we spent two days on a safari. It was unforgettable. Tearing through the whispy pridelands in an open-topped SUV, feeling the rush of the wind and gawking at the most incredible animals in the world. Truly. IN THE WORLD. I could try (and fail) to describe what it was like to be 2 feet away from a dozen lionesses, but I will just let the pictures do the talking.
|I call these sausage trees, but they are actually some kind of fruit tree. Not sausage at all.|
|Yeah. That's a lion.|
|A REAL lion. In the wild. In her natural habitat.|
|I was in complete awe at her beauty. Yes, I was thoroughly afraid for my life. Absolutely.|
|Now these guys. They are the happiest animal!|
|It's kinda like me and Everett. Kinda.|
|Stevie took all these photos. I think he should quit his job and JUST TAKE ANIMAL PHOTOS forever. He's the best.|
This is the briefest of overviews. There are so many more stories about this particular trip, ranging from hilarious to surprising and everything in between, with about 1000+ more photos, too. There is no way to share it all here. But I wanted to share some of these photos because even though it was several years ago, this trip was stunning and impacting. Life-altering. For me personally and for Stevie and myself together. Just two kiddos, learning about the hugeness of the world and how our dreams and hands can be part of some positive change. Every year we talk about going back. And I know we will!
Thanks for letting me share this throwback trip! Be on the lookout for a few more TBT trip stories in the month of April... cleaning out the hard drive has led me to rediscovering some oldies-but-goodies. Happy TBT, friends!