I wish every post could highlight all the joy and fun I'm experiencing with the kids and the joy of playing and teaching tennis everyday, but unfortunately that is not always our reality. Last week, the sun didn't shine in Nairobi, and tragedy came knocking onto Sadili's gates.
Each day last week, the sun was hidden behind a multitude of clouds. At any moment it looked like the heavens would spill over in heavy downpours. The rain would come and go, but the sun never revealed her face. While I continued to enjoy my afternoons with the girls from Kibera, things around us began to fall apart. As I write this, it's been almost a week since we've had running water, our internet connection is all but gone, and I've caught a stomach bug that has me almost completely incapacitated. Still, we press on, every afternoon we are greeted with the smiling faces of our Kibera kids we've fallen in love with. Last week, I introduced them to bubbles and jumping games, relays and selfies. Their excitement is contagious, and it's a disease I'm happy to catch.
But as the clouds continued to roll over Nairobi, the bad news came in like an unwelcome visitor. One of the coach's, Richie, brother died on Saturday night. He was 24, and in seemingly perfect health before his sudden passing. Just the week before, I joked with Richie about going to the doctor when he said he'd never been to a doctor before in his life. Could his brother's life been spared had he visited a doctor more regularly? The doctors said he had anemia. In America, anemia is so easily treated.
On the night of his death, the first hospital refused to see him because it was so late in the night. Someone came out and looked at Richie's passed out brother and declared he was dead, go to the police. The police said he was alive, go to the hospital, so they went to another hospital. He received no care that night, and now he is dead.
My heart broke when I heard the harrowing tale to get medical attention for a dying man. It's tragic and sad, and my heart aches for a family that has to bury their second son in as many years. In their tradition, the brother has to be buried in his family's homeland of Kisumu. However, they do not have any money. Today Richie said that he's received a lot of "sorries," but sorry won't bury his brother, and now as the eldest brother he must shoulder the burden of responsibility for his family.
Alas, hope is not lost: "the sun comes up it's a new day dawning." Today for the first time in over a week, the sun is perched high and bright uncovered to reveal all her glory. The maintenance man has just given me the thumbs up that our water is running again (but I've gotten the same thumbs up several times), and my antibiotics have begun to kick in, and I'm feeling much better. And if you're reading this blog, then the internet is somewhat working :)
God is good even on cloudy weeks that bring tears and pain. He will always get the glory through our joyous moments and the sad ones too. He is sovereign, and we must trust His plan. My prayer is that Richie's brother's death will not be in vain, and can bring attention to the lack of access to healthcare for Nairobi's underprivileged. Please join me in prayer for Richie's family, and that they will raise the funds to bury his brother in Kisumu. And that God will give Richie the strength and wisdom to care for his family.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
Every afternoon, we walk from Sadili to Kibera, which is one of the largest slums in the world. The one mile walk is not an easy one for sure, we walk through bush, rocks, dirt roads, then down a mountainside before reaching the makeshift court in Kibera. Today, I was still suffering from a sinus infection I had before leaving America plus jet lag and exhaustion, but I wouldn't have missed this chance to go to Kibera for anything.
There is a girl named Elizabeth, and she is probably 16 now. We met three years ago when I first visited Nairobi. The love I have for her transcends 3 years, two continents, and eight time zones. I pray for her every day. I see her face when I think about Kenya. From taking selfies on my iPhone to inviting me to her home, to impromptu dance parties, Jesus talks, and dating advice, we have shared a lot of awesome memories, and I long to be reunited with her.
Logic would say I shouldn't have made the hike to Kibera today, by the time we reached the courts, I could barely breath. The sun was beaming down in intense rays. I was exhausted before we started the lesson, but I had to go. I couldn't miss the opportunity to see Elizabeth, to hug her, to talk to her. We taught tennis for about two hours. I could barely stand, but out of the corner of my eye I kept glancing towards her home. Waiting for her to come home from school. When we got ready to leave, I saw her brother, but not her. She wasn't there this time. My heart ached as we set on our way back. As I climbed the large hill, I peeked over my shoulder one last time hoping to get a glimpse of this young girl that God placed in my life and has touched me so much already.
Tomorrow I will go back to Kibera. And the next day. And the next day. I will hike through the rough terrain, the steep hills, and cross the highway to see Elizabeth. I know it's no coincidence that The Lord allowed us to cross paths three years ago and again last year. I've already traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, so I'll happily go the extra mile to see her smile again.
Please join me in prayer that The Lord will allow us to be reunited and He will bless and build our friendship during the time I'm here.
After months of praying for this moment, it has finally arrived! I am headed to Kenya to answer God's calling on my life. I am filled with so much joy and excitement about this moment. As I type this blog from the Amsterdam airport, it still all seems so unreal.
Just a year ago, I would never have imagined that I'd be headed to live in Kenya, I am so grateful that God's plans for our lives supersedes our own limited desires. I could fill this entire page reflecting on all the sadness, loneliness, desperation, and hopelessness I felt before trusting in Jesus. But I'd rather talk about all the joy I have now walking the path God has called me on. I don't know what He has in store for me in Kenya, but I'm excited to find out. I'm excited to trust God for all of my needs, both big and small. I'm excited to join a new faith community. I'm excited about working with the kids and loving them unconditionally. But I'm mostly excited about God alone! He alone is enough. He fuels my fire, and I am so pumped right now!
Although, I couldn't see myself headed to Kenya a year ago, God knew and He has been laying this foundation from before I was born. Wow!
Let the journey begin!
In exactly three weeks, I am moving to Nairobi, Kenya. I have received so many questions about where I'm going, and what I'll be doing that I decided to do a Q and A.
Why are you moving to Kenya?
That's an easy one..because I feel The Lord calling me there. A few years ago I visited short-term a tennis camp in Nairobi, and I fell in love with the kids and the people, and I realized it was much bigger than tennis. God has a purpose for me in Kenya, and I am excited to see all He will do.
What will you be doing?
I will be working at Sadili Oval (http://sadili.com), which is a Kenyan non-profit that uses sports to empower youth from impoverished backgrounds. They run a school, a sports academy, a girl's power program, and other outreach programs for youth and adults. I will be working with the tennis program and developing an after school program for local children. But mostly I'll be loving on every kid I encounter and letting little ones play with my hair, snap pics with my iPhone, and having spontaneous swim and/or dance parties!
What is your plan for after Kenya?
Only God knows. But I plan on using my time there to write and spend intimate time with The Lord. I'm going for a year initially, and we will see what doors God will open after that!
How does your family feel about the move?
My family has always been supportive of me, and I am very grateful for their love and support. I think it's hard for my mom to see me go, but I know she loves me and is proud of my decision even through the buckets of tears! I will miss my family immensely, and I know they will miss me but I'm only a FaceTime call away!
What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about the kids. I cannot wait to see their faces and get to know their stories. I am excited about making news friends and exploring a new country.
What are you most nervous about?
I am nervous about becoming homesick and missing my family. I am praying to quickly become connected to a local church and form community. Please join me in praying for reliable transportation, a church home, and community.
To continue to follow my journey, please be sure to join my email list!
For anyone that knows me well, I am usually a last minute person. I wait until the very last second to prepare for anything. This time I decided to be proactive and create a packing list for my trip weeks ahead of time. Groundbreaking for me! Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of time searching online for packing list for Kenya, for missions, for living abroad. I found some good list, but not one seemed to have everything I need. Obviously, most lacked the essentials for maintaining black natural hair for a year! Ha! So I created this comprehensive list. I hope it's helpful to others, and if I forgot anything please feel free to comment below! Thanks!