<![CDATA[The Travelling Arts - Kenya]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 12:03:53 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Food, Fellowship, and Church]]>Fri, 06 Mar 2015 08:54:29 GMThttp://pgbtravellingarts.weebly.com/kenya/food-fellowship-and-church
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Martin and his chef assistant making Chapati.
“There is no love sincerer
than the love of food.” 
― George Bernard Shaw
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          WE EITHER LOVE OR HATE CERTAIN FOOD BECAUSE OF THE RELATIONSHIPS AND MEMORIES THAT WE ATTACH TO IT. For some, this means that they will always and forever hate green beans because their mothers and fathers forced them to eat a plethora of greens beans as children. Others love green beans because it takes them back to sitting in their grandmothers' kitchens at a young age where a heaping pile of buttery, fried green beans were made especially for them. It's easy to see how closely these three subjects, relationships, memories, and food, tie so closely.
          That's why food played such an important role during my time in Kenya. If you want to get to know a person very well, all you must do is eat in that person's home. This is exactly what I did in Kenya. Even while we were in Soweto, everyday our group would set out for an hour's walk to get to Antony's house for breakfast. No matter what we did that day or where we went, we would always be sure to get back to Father's home to eat both lunch and dinner. This was not an unordinary thing. Father always had many people fill his home all day, and especially during meal times. His home was open for anybody. So when our team came along, it was no different. We were added to the already large number of people crowded into the room where we ate.
         After having been eating the meals for a few days, I got curious about the kitchen and the chef behind all of the cooking. So one rainy morning I decided to climb the outdoor staircase to the top room of the building to see where the magic happened. The kitchen was just a small room with a few cooking supplies. It had no counters or tables, but a few plastic chairs to sit in. I walked into a scene of Martin, the man in charge of the meals, chattering to a few friends and children. The room was small, cozy, and welcoming. It seemed that every person who entered through that door could be fully themselves, and be completely comfortable.
          It was in that small kitchen where I formed the best friendships. There I learned the most about the culture and history of Kenya and how to make some of the best cooked vegetables and chapati on earth. It was where I got to get to know the children and all their little quirks; it also provided a great space for some dancing competitions with each kid. It was the place I felt the most content. After I would help prepare the meals, the adults would sit down with plates of pre-dinner, taste-testing food and glass bottles of cold drinks, either Stoney or Krest. Often we would talk about our opinions, the latest news and gossip, or explain our backgrounds to each other. Sometimes we would sit in content silence among each other. After this, the children and I would carry the food down for the meals. After we found our places around the small table crammed with piles of food, prayed, and praised together, we would dig into the food. It was during those simple times that I felt so immensely happy.
          It was the same in Nakuru. As we sadly said goodbye to our family we had found in Soweto, we thought that at no other place we could form such close relationships so quickly. But we were mistaken. While the memories and relationships we formed in Nakuru were much different from the ones we had in Soweto, they were equally valued and very often enveloped in the subject of food. As Nakuru is in the countryside and Soweto is not, a lot of the food we ate was provided in much different ways. In Nakuru my new sisters taught me how to pick and prepare certain vegetables. My brothers taught me how to kill, clean, and cook chicken. Again, it wasn't necessarily the food that brought such amazing memories, but it was the conversation that happened around the cooking. Irene, Nancy, James, and many others told me their stories as we worked in the kitchen. We talked about our past, our interests, and our dreams. Trust, camaraderie, and deep friendship were so quickly built during those times. After we made the food, it was quickly put on the table. My sisters and I would talk about anything and everything. My brothers would joke with me as they piled seconds onto my plate and wouldn't let me leave the table until I finished every single bit of food on it. Then when we did the dishes after supper, Mother would come in to keep us company. She would sing us Kenyan songs with her soft yet strong voice. This was usually followed by playing ridiculous music and dancing. We would be completely ourselves.
        That's why I love food so much. People open up to each other when there is a meal to be prepared and to be eaten together. When food is shared so often, so intimately, we draw closer to each other. And when we draw this close, we build up relationship. We honor Christ with unity and joy that family meals bring. We bring in outcasts of many places and make them feel welcome through basic human necessities- food and fellowship. When I look closely at all of these qualities, and the power that food has, I notice something. I notice that this is exactly what the church is supposed to be. It is not a building where people come once a week to worship. Church is a unified body of people that worship God in their actions and lifestyles, specifically in caring for the outcast and needy. They make people feel welcome.

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One of my highlights was getting to know Irene. She is an awesome young woman who loves to serve God through cooking. She has an amazing smile and a mother's heart. I loved listening to her stories and perspective on life.
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<![CDATA[The Sureness of a Family]]>Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:39:51 GMThttp://pgbtravellingarts.weebly.com/kenya/the-sureness-of-a-family
          For part of my stay in Kenya, my team and I got to work with an organization by the name of Sure 24 Homes, located in Nakuru. Started by a man named Sam, who was once a street kid of Nairobi, its goal is to take in children from the streets or from bad family situations. Sam and His wife take in as many people as possible and aren't afraid to reach for their dreams. Sure 24 is basically a self-sustained organization, besides outside donations to help maintain its programs. Their campus holds dormitories, a school, a church, a garden, livestock, and even a water purifying system. They also have started a car garage where teenage boys can work to learn life skills in order to get good jobs outside of Sure 24 or of Nakuru. Sam uses these resources not only to raise the orphans and children, but also to help out the community around them. And because they aren't afraid to reach for God's dreams, they are ever expanding. Right now they are building the school and more dorm rooms. They've even bought a large plot of land outside of their community to begin building the next phase of Sure 24 after they are done with the school.
          But what impressed me so much about Sure 24 wasn't its size or how much its campus was doing in the community. It was the feeling of family that I and others experienced. Even though it is so large and is growing so much, it has the feeling of a close family. Sam is passionate not just about raising children into healthy adults, but teaching as many people as possible about what family looks like and represents in God's Kingdom. Thanks to what God is doing through Sam and Sure 24, this little girl is experiencing just that. She came to Sure 24 at a very young age because both of her parents are alcoholics. But instead of severing ties with her family, Sure 24 is working towards healing for her entire family. They have taken her into their home while they provide what they can to help her parents to recovery. She is a happy, healthy girl now. She has a light in her eyes that only God, His presence, and His peace can give. Even at such a young age she is now experiencing what it means to be a part of God's family and the liberation and healing it brings not only to her, but to her parents and others around her.
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<![CDATA[The Freedom Fighter]]>Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:05:07 GMThttp://pgbtravellingarts.weebly.com/kenya/nakuru
"We have to be able to grow up. 
Our wrinkles are our medals 
of the passage of life. 
They are what we have been through 
and who we want to be."
Lauren Hutton

          I couldn't believe the experience that was unfolding before me. I walked alongside an old woman helping her carry food to her home in Soweto, a slum of Nairobi. While I was in South Africa, I heard a small part of the story of a lady who had been a freedom fighter many years ago in Kenya's fight for independence. I never imagined that I would get to meet this incredible woman, much less that I would be led to her home as she told me her story.
          Ms. Freedom Fighter was the type of person that everyone else couldn't help but noticing. Her small bare feet, her worn walking stick, her honorary necklaces and bracelets. Every inch of her told such a story without a single word. But her face said the most. Her smirky, glowing grin with a perfect little gap between her two front teeth, her smile wrinkles, and her amazing brown eyes. That soft glow that's now in her eyes has softened with age I'm sure. It's easy to see that when she was young she was filled with such fire.
          As I stood with this beautiful woman in her small tin home, she could not contain her excitement. She kept saying over and over again how God had come down to bless her by my presence. I felt so unequipped to meet this standard. By me just bringing a small parcel of food for her, her granddaughter, and her great granddaughter, and being interested in hearing her story, she felt like an angel had come down from heaven. As she began telling me more of her story, she would suddenly stop, grab my hand, and put it over her layers of necklaces. Despite the fact that she was going blind, her eyes would look deep into mine, and and she would say, "Do you feel my heart? It is beating so fast I think it's going to jump out of me. I am so happy that God has brought you hear." She would then quickly continue on with her story.
          She told me of when she was a young freedom fighter. The majority of the fighters were men, but it doesn't surprise me that she was a fighter despite this fact. Her bravery is evident to anyone who has the time to look. It was easy for me to picture her with her young strong arms and legs in uniform. She once was powerful, on fire, and had dreadlocks nearly down to her knees. When I asked her if she still had dreadlocks, she took her head wrap off with a grin. Her small wrinkled head was completely bald. No longer was her body strong, but her soul was even stronger than it was when she fought. She showed me the scars and bumps from when she was captured and beaten during the fighting. After this, she told me no more of those hard times, but moved on to her pride, her family.
          She told me about her small tin house. Not even two years ago she had a normal concrete house and a beautiful daughter. Then the fire came. Her daughter passed away, and she was left with a plot of land filled with ashes. And a granddaughter and baby to take care of. She had nothing. That was why she was so grateful for so little. Antony, the father and founder of Tumaini African Foundation, was able to get a group of people together to build her a small two-room home made from sheets of tin and small logs. After serving and giving for so much of her life, this incredible woman is getting a small amount back from her community. A tin home, a food parcel now and then, a few visitors every once in a while. Yet she is immensely grateful for the smallest things, because her community gives back with all that they have. They give the best they can give because of their genuine love for God and for their brothers and sisters. They give what they have because they are called to be one unit under Christ. They give because they have been given so much more in Christ.
      Very few words were actually spoken between the two of us. But seeing this incredible woman be such a stronghold of this community opened my eyes to so many things. Her gratitude and genuine joy over such small things made me realize, again, how much I have to be grateful for. She made me realize that attaining and retaining passion in life is so important. This passion should be so apparent that you don't have to speak words to show others you have it. I think that God definitely had it planned from the beginning for the two of us to meet. I can't help but imagine that we would have been best friends if we were born at the same and in the same place.      
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This woman has played so many roles in her community over the years. When Antony and I talked with her again, I found out that she also started a sort of feeding program at the school that Antony went to when he was a boy. He didn't find out her real name until the day that I talked to her. To many she is just known as Mother, or Auntie.
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<![CDATA[family light]]>Sat, 31 Jan 2015 13:30:03 GMThttp://pgbtravellingarts.weebly.com/kenya/family-light         Words can't describe all of the experiences I had in Kenya. All of the people I met, all the things I saw, all the stories I heard. It's a country filled with a lot of sorrow, yet with so much potential. I have never met so many young people with so much hope, with such a desire to serve, with such amazing talents. I think the young people of Kenya, and of Africa in general, are rising up. They are realizing that their communities, their nations, need true leaders. Not leaders that are corrupt and selfish, but leaders that serve others before they themselves are served. Fathers and mothers, workers and teachers that lead by example. And these young people of Africa are learning what it looks like to fill those positions. Despite, maybe even because of, their broken stories, these young people are finding the tools to fight against darkness, sorrow, and pain in their countries. One of the tools that they are using the most is the power of belonging to a family. No family is perfect, but there is strength in numbers. When people with diverse backgrounds, talents, and characteristics choose to come together in unity and work for a common cause, God uses those people in powerful ways.
         That is what I saw mostly in Kenya. People from broken places with broken stories choosing to rise above their situations to come together and heal the brokenness. As a single community, they are shining God's healing light into their communities. This was God's intention for each of us all along. He created us each into a beautiful being made for a very specific purpose, like a potter molding something on a clay wheel. He saw us at the beginning- we were pure and beautiful in His sight. But as our stories developed in this world, we each began to have cracks and gaps in us; we lost sight of our purpose. Soon those cracks became so big that we became useless and broken. God could not stand to see his children in this state, when His original intention for us was to be such a pure creation. So He chose to come down and redeem us. After that His beautiful light filled us. Our cracks were never made invisible, but are still gaping for everyone to see. But the cracks are now filled with an amazing light. A light from within that shines out to the rest of the world. This light seeks darkness and overcomes it, because where there is light there can be no dark. And when people see this light, they turn towards it expecting to see something magical and beautiful. Instead they see an ordinary pot with gaping cracks in it. They see the broken story, they see the healing and the new purpose, they see the unfathomable light coming from this small, insignificant, broken piece of clay. And they are in awe of such a broken beauty, a simple light that is leading people towards God. An imperfect thing which leads many to such a perfect healing and liberation.
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One of the ministry tools that my team used when we did church services on Outreach was drawing pictures. It was my first time ever drawing in front of a huge crowd. While our team members told their testimonies about how God rescued them out of their brokenness and brought them into His family, I drew this picture of a broken pot on stage. The service had an amazing impact on both our team and the church we spoke at. The church was made up mostly of youth that had been rescued off of the streets or from bad family situations, so the story-line applied really well to their own personal lives- that God can take broken stories and fill them with redemption and hope.
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