Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pictures, pictures, and more pictures

Yesterday I did 81 portraits in 40 minutes. 81 names. 81 pairs of beautiful black eyes. 81 unique personalities and poses. 81 shoulders that tense up and relax as they laugh. 81 smiles and expressions that relaxed as they learned to trust the camera. 81 portraits in 40 minutes.

I realized that I'm doing something similar to what I did in Thailand, as far as shooting goes. It's not quite as extensive or in-depth, but regardless, it's a huge undertaking. In Thailand Hannah & I spent three full weeks to capture 100 girls. Here in Kenya, I am doing portraits for 364 kids, and gathering details on 150 of them... in just about 8 days.

It's kind of overwhelming when I stop to think about this undertaking, and I'm not sure how I will actually accomplish it all. I suppose that if I keep up a rate of two children per minute I should do just fine. I stood in line at Nakumart (their version of Wal-Mart) the other night and seriously considered stocking up on energy drinks. Maybe next time...

I cannot begin to express how much I am blessed to be here. The teaches are so full of love and commitment to the students— sometimes starting classes at 4am and teaching until 8pm, just to make sure the students know everything inside and out. I feel that I am dwelling among saints.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's been One Week since...

Taylor playing with the kids on break

Carol teaching "Good News"

Porridge, the kids' breakfast

Typical classrom at the school

Kids in "Good News," the Bible Class

It's been... one week. One week full of beautiful black eyes. One week of gorgeous weather. One week knowing full well that I am where I am meant to be. One week of smiles, and joy in the joy of others. It has been a good, good week.

We left for Kenya a week ago. It absolutely does not feel like it's been that long! Granted, two days were spent in travel, so we didn't actually arrive to Mombassa until late Thursday night... but that still leaves five days that don't feel like any time at all. Next time I open my eyes, I will be home. So I won't close them.

We're staying at a beautiful hotel about twenty minutes from the school. I say "hotel," but I really mean a resort. We have a 2-bedroom, 2-story apartment that has a full kitchen and living area, in a Christian-owned resort that is right on the Indian Ocean. And I really mean, right on the beach. We had absolutely no idea that it would be this amazing. At first it was difficult to stay here, because we wanted to be closer to the school. But we've already had the boarding students/orphans over twice to swim and play, and they have never seen anything like this before. I'm so grateful that it's a blessing to them!

Mikindani Royal Kids Academy is run by Ngao and Grace Mazira and their family. They currently have 364 students enrolled. 150 of these children are unable to pay any tuition, so they attend for free. Of this number, 37 have lost either one or both parents, or are their families are too impoverished to keep them, so they board at the school, as well.

Ngao & Grace served with YWAM for 18 years before starting this school, and their heart behind everything is to both educate and disciple these children, to raise up future leaders in Church, government, and community. They sacrificially give of themselves time and time again for the sake of the students, and they totally depend on the Lord to supply their needs. Talking with Ngao & Grace is like talking with George Mueller or Amy Carmichael. These are heroes of the faith, great modern-day saints whose love for God spills over into genuine love for people. I am honored to know them.

They started this school by holding worship in the living room of their house every day at 4pm. As more children came, they began teaching them to read using the Bible. After praying about it, they decided to open a Preschool, so they began adding onto their house. They have added two levels above their house, and they are working on a third. They structure can support one more on top, but even that is not sufficient for the number of students the school holds.

As often occurs, the number of children exceeded the available space, and the available financial resources. And then in 2007, the civil unrest brought inflation, and orphaned some of the children, causing the need/available resources ratio to grow even more out of proportion. And yet they have survived, and no child has gone hungry. Just a few months ago their well ran dry, so they have to go out every day in search of water and haul in enough to supply the entire school.

Faith and stewardship? They live out this balance on a daily basis.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And we're off!

Current location: Baltimore-Washington International Airport
Time to final destination: 43+ hours
Hours of sleep last night: 5
Current level of caffeine: just barely enough
Books in my carry-on:
Fast Track Photographer, by Dane Sanders
The Gospel for Real Life, by Jerry Bridges
Tribes, by Seth Godin
Hope in the Dark, by Jeremy Cowart and Jena Lee
Weight of my carry-on: [I refuse to weigh it]
Song on my iPod: Conversations, by Sara Groves

I'm on my way to Kenya. And I'm ready for it.

God has done some amazing things in my heart in the past two days, and I know that where I am is where I'm supposed to be. In Baltimore right now, in Detroit in three hours, in Amsterdam and then in Nairobi and then on a six-hour bus ride to our final destination in Mombasa.

I don't have words to express my thoughts and feelings. I know it will be good. I know that God will take my heart and break it for His love. I know that I will age years over the course of the next three weeks. I know that I will be changed.

I'm on my way to Kenya. And I'm ready for it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm just not ready for this.

Tomorrow after tomorrow I will leave for Kenya.

I am not ready.

I'm not ready to get up two days from now to an alarm at an ungodly hour. I'm not ready to fly hours and hours at a time. I'm not ready for the friendships and relationships I will build. I'm not ready for the difference in culture, in communication, in physical surroundings. I'm not ready for layovers and baggage questions and changing money and time zones. I'm not ready to leave home again.

I'm not ready for tomorrow. I'm not ready to start the headless chicken dance. I'm not ready to pack, and try to remember everything that was on my list. I'm not ready to ache because I already miss my family and my home. I'm not ready to meet with a client and check photography to-dos off my list. I'm not ready to try to squeeze so much into the twenty-four hours before I leave the country.

I'm not ready for today. I'm not ready to meet with my team and go through the emotions of preparation and prayer. I'm not ready to try to imagine what three weeks in Kenya will look like. I'm not ready to give, emotionally, on that level, or to anticipate giving like that. I'm not ready to say goodbye to Christina as she flies home. I'm not ready to be prayed over in Church. I'm not ready for questions asked by people that I love, and people that love me. I'm not ready to be vulnerable.

I'm just not ready.

But I am needy. I need love, and encouragement, and prayer, and support. I need to know that people don't understand, but they pray and love and give, anyway. I need to know that what I'm doing is worth something in the grand scheme of time and Eternity. I need to know that it's okay to be exhausted, to be spent, to hit dirt bottom in my work of building the kingdom. I need people who will not despise my emptiness, or judge me for giving, or try to tell me to stop working so hard. I need to know that dirt bottom isn't the end of the road.

I need to love my Jesus more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

a letter

I like to write. I journal, I blog, I write thank you notes (sometimes), and just recently, I started writing letters. Actually, they're more like small books. Or miniature journals. I make them out of whatever paper-like materials I have at hand (paper bags, scrap paper, etc.), bind them together with glue, yarn, and ribbon, and write in them for several days in succession until all of the pages are filled.

This is my most recent letter, and it belongs to an amazing person named Laura. Laura is an artist and a writer and a world changer. She is one who sees, with her eyes and with her soul.

I like Laura. I like this letter. I'm glad I get to send it to her.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I choose trust

"God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision... Every vision will be made real if we have patience... The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be... If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you." —Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Yesterday morning I sat on the front porch with coffee in hand, and prayed that God would "open up the windows of heaven and pour down blessing until there are no more needs." (Mal. 3:10) I leave for Kenya in two weeks, and life is just busy, both before the trip and after I get home, and my needs— physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual— are great.

This morning I thought about the previous 24-hour period and all that had transpired, and wondered if I'd prayed the right thing.

I found that my savings account has only half as much as I thought— not due to error or theft, but just because I thought there was more in there. My primary lens keeps back-focusing, giving me fits. One of the scroll wheels on my camera malfunctioned, so it's stuck on extreme settings (which means I have to send it in for repair). My camera's extended warranty company will do absolutely nothing to guarantee repair before I leave the country in two weeks. By now, I feel slightly desperate. To top it off, I hear a story of God's abundant provision for someone else I know, and to my shame, I responded by breaking down in tears. I prayed for blessing.

It certainly doesn't feel like God is answering that prayer for blessing. In fact, it feels much more like He's withholding blessing than anything else.

But then I remembered that quote from Oswald Chambers, and a conversation I had with a friend about Hudson Taylor and waiting until the very last minute to watch God provide, and conversation with another friend about the wisdom and kindness of God.
And I decided that I'm going to trust Him.

After all, my God has not changed. My circumstances have changed, and my perspectives have changed, and my perceived needs have changed. But God has not changed. He is every bit as loving and kind and faithful today as He was yesterday. He has provided for me in so many miraculous ways in the course of my life. Why would I doubt that this time will be any different?

Pray for me in the meantime. This "learning to wait, learning to trust" thing is not easy. And even on those days when my will is set on obedience in all of the right ways, my feelings still like to flop all over the place. When it comes down to it, though, I will trust. And I will love God all the more because of it.

Listen to Psalm 116b by Sons of Korah