Following the excitement of friends and family visiting us in January & February, and the hard work involved in conferences in the second half of Feb, life has been more ‘normal’ for the month of March (we put ‘normal’ in inverted commas like that as every day still has a surprise of one sort or another!). We have also continued with Swahili learning but have decided to finish our lessons at the end of April. We have appreciated the opportunity to get on with our routine work of counselling and running the service, for Mark, and teaching English and Ladies Bible study for Barbara.
However, we know that the news from Kenya has been terrible recently. The day before Good Friday, there was the awful news of the shootings at a university in Garissa. It happened 250 miles from here, in an area not too far from the Somali border. 147 people, mostly students, were massacred and it has had a widespread effect over Kenya. Churches have been praying for the families of the victims, that they would be able to forgive and to not to harbour hatred. But students and their families are understandably edgy.
Personally, we feel safe. One of the features of living here is tight security – we live on a compound behind two sets of gates which are guarded 24/7, in an apartment which has a tough steel door, and sleep within a ‘safe area’ which has a further big steel door to bolt ourselves in, and with metal bars on all the windows, etc. From a UK perspective this probably sounds horrendous, but we’ve just got used to it, and this is normal life here. And we know that, ultimately, the safest place to be is in the centre of God’s will.
Most weekdays, I (Barbara) sit in our bedroom-cum-study and sit at the desk planning English lessons or Bible studies. It’s lovely to be able to look out of the window in front of the desk and look at the beautiful acacia tree and to see tropical birds feeding on seeds from the agapanthus flowers in the garden below the window.
Here are some of the women from the Bible-study group – all pastors’ wives – from Tanzania, Burundi, DRC, and other countries. From May I’ll be leading them in a new series highlighting Biblical teaching that will be relevant to them in their roles as pastors’ wives back in their home countries.
I’m also excited to be asked to teach English on a 2-week course in May here in Karen, Nairobi, for students from many African countries who are studying for degrees in theology. They are on a distance-learning course for Bible translators, consultants to Bible translators, or Scripture Engagement (i.e. those encouraging Africans to use the Bible that has now been translated into their own heart language). They all need to improve their English for their studies. It’s a privilege to be a small link in the chain of Bible translation.
Tumaini has been unusually busy these last months, but we have been able to meet these needs as we currently have a full team. There are 10 clinical staff at the moment – psychiatrists, a psychologist, marriage and family therapists and psychotherapists – coming from the US (including a Chinese-American), Canada, UK, Germany, and South Korea. It is common for some of us to be away speaking and counselling at conferences etc, so it is rare for the whole team to be together at Tumaini. But as we were all present recently, here is picture of the entire clinical team.
Two very significant and long-serving members of the team are returning to the US in the coming months, so are in the late stages of winding down their work at Tumaini. There will be other absences by 2016, so we are praying for new staff to join us – both at Tumaini in Nairobi and at the new centre planned for Kampala. We are sending out information about the vacancies to the AIM offices in the US, UK, etc. but if you know of anyone who would be interested to find out about these opportunities, please put them in touch with me!
Our planning for a new counselling centre in Kampala is coming along well, and we expect to have our first person based there from October.
Our first online group supporting missionaries working in remote areas is coming to the end of its six weeks and is going very well. I am familiar with online work, including with groups, so have led this first group, which has focused on the theme of burnout. In May we expect to be starting 3 more groups, led by several members of the Tumaini team.
Palm Sunday was a day when many of the public buses decorated their vehicles with palm branches and many churches celebrated the event.
Easter here has no chocolate eggs. (Shocked gasp! Have they forgotten the meaning of Easter? No they haven’t!) On the Thursday evening – the day of the Garissa shootings – we attended a Passover meal at church, ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread (in this instance, a slice of green pepper and a cream cracker!) and remembered the Old Testament Passover. Our pastors recalled that before the Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples, that Jesus had washed their feet. The senior pastor then washed the feet of a number of church members, and after that we all had our hands washed by church elders before we ate a full meal of roasted goat, rice and chapatti!
Taking stock & beginning to think ahead
Now that we have been here for a year and 3 months, we have just had our mid-term reviews. Our manager discussed with us how things have been going so far and we have been thinking about what we do at the end of these two years here. There is definitely more work that we could do, and it seems as though we’re only just now getting into our stride. AIM would clearly like us to return here after a few months back in the UK.
However, we greatly miss our families and are very much looking forward to being with everyone again when the time comes. So there is much to pray about!
The rainy season begins
The long rains have started, and the scenery has turned from brown to green, and from dust to mud! One side effect of the rainy season is that the electricity supply becomes even less reliable, so when thunderstorms start in the evenings we reach for torches and candles, just in case. (Another apparent side-effect is that all the ants come out; where do they all come from?)
But it’s wonderful to see the grass, plants, shrubs and trees coming back to life. Moreover, the temperatures have moderated somewhat, down from 30+ to about 25C in the day, which is much fresher and very pleasant (though the Kenyans say it has got ‘quite cold’).
A new plane for AIM
Today we attended our twice-yearly Africa Based Support prayer day (ABS is the part of Africa Inland Mission to which we belong). As well as praying for all the services that ABS provides, we prayed for all the regions of Africa where AIM has missionaries working. The highlight of the day was the dedication of a new aeroplane that will support them in their work by flying people and goods to remote parts.
For those of you who are the praying kind, please give thanks with us:
- That the rains have started for the crops and there is fresh green grass for the animals to eat
- For the new AIM plane that was safely flown to Nairobi from the US, to support missionary work here.
And please pray for:
- Peace and safety for all in Kenya.
- Barbara to plan well for the English course in May and that it proves useful for the students attending
- The Ladies Bible Study group that Barbara is leading from May through July, that we learn from the Bible how to live as Pastors’ wives.
- The new online groups being offered by Tumaini to support missionaries working in remote areas, and for the members of the Tumaini team who will shortly begin to work in this way.
- Preparation for the new Kampala counselling centre and the people coming to work there.
- New professional psychiatric and psychotherapeutic staff for Nairobi and Kampala in 2016.
- Guidance about our personal future from 2016 – that we would be open to and clear about God’s will.