So, we are seven weeks into language learning and can talk with our teacher during each two-hour lesson using very little English – that is, so long as we all speak slowly and keep within the bounds of our limited vocabulary. However, when we go out into the ‘real world’ we quickly find that that we understand only a little, because the rest of the population doesn’t keep to these two simple rules! Anyway, we are progressing!
Up to now, we have been spending our time in language learning, getting to understand more of the culture, and building relationships with neighbours, with workers on the campus here, fellow AIM missionaries and people at our ‘new’ church. However, what strikes us as our ‘mission opportunity’ is the hour between 6 and 7 each weekday evening, when we frequently sit outside our apartment and have chai with one or more of the people who we are getting to know or who do some work for us.
Our neighbours include academics and their families from the university where we are living (some of whom were contributors to the African Bible Commentary – one of our favourite books!), other residents who, like us, just live here, and staff of the compound – gardeners, guards, etc. Here is a picture of Joseph, a campus gardener, who comes round regularly after his work to talk with us and help us with our plants; he is pleased to think that his picture would be seen in England! He is a lovely man.
One neighbour who shares an interest in gardening said, “I’ve never met wazungu (white people) who like farming”. We hadn’t exactly thought of our planting a few vegetables and herbs as “farming”, but it’s great to build the friendship and learn from her expertise in ‘farming’!
Thank you for praying about this. We have settled on joining the Africa Inland Church (AIC) at Ngong Road, Nairobi. This was the furthest of the churches we visited, but we have peace about it being where God wants us to be. It has about 200+ people attending, mostly Kenyans along with a small contingent of wazungu, including a number of other AIM missionaries. AIM and AIC has a long and close working relationship, so this is another good reason to attend there.
‘Sunday School’ – meaning a Bible study for adults – is a new concept for us. It happens for an hour before the main 2-hour Sunday morning service, and this played a big part in convincing us to join the church. The current Bible studies are grappling with the fact that there are real and significant differences between the beliefs of different religions, and that we Christians need to relate to and share the Gospel with those of other faiths or none.
I (Mark) have continued to attend team meetings and induction activities at Tumaini and we both attend devotions there once a week at the start of the day. Barbara led this last week and Mark the week before. We’re in Acts chapter 3 at the moment and Mark spoke about the healing of the disabled man and I followed up speaking about the opportunity this gave Peter to witness to Jesus rising from the dead and how faith in His power had healed the man.
This man, who was disabled, excluded from the Temple and an outsider to his society, asked only for money; he asked for so little, and also for the wrong thing! In our African context, where many people ask for money, it set us thinking about whether we just give money, or think to give what a person really needs…
Last weekend a couple who have been working at the Tumaini Counselling Centre for many years, led a marriage retreat just outside Nairobi for missionary couples, and Barbara and I went and were able to help a little with leading the event. We know that marriage is an area under particular pressure in our world, and the strains on missionary couples can be intense. So it was particularly good to see couples re-committing themselves to each other and to relying on God, who makes all things possible. Here is a picture of us at the venue, about to go out for a spot of bird-watching during a break!
Barbara’s future work
AIM has agreed that I (Barbara) can teach an English class informally twice a week to students at the university where we are living, once my work permit has come, and I am looking forward to meeting potential learners. However, there is nothing happening at the moment over the possible project to teach refugees in Nairobi, because of recent tensions in the area, and we value your prayers for peace.
Our visitors visas were due to expire today, but yesterday they were extended for a further three months, so we didn’t need to suddenly flee the country (PTL)! We have some indications that our work-permits may be processed shortly, which will enable us to both stay long-term in the country and to begin to work ‘for real’.
Reminders that we are in Africa
Having been here for three months, some of the ‘raw newness’ has worn off; we get up in the morning and have a ‘normal day’! But there are a number of things that remind us that we are in Africa:
- The bush that slowly weaves its way along the main road ahead of us turns out to have a motorcycle under it – and, presumably somewhere, a rider (see picture)
- The vervet monkey that sat on a railing two feet outside the Tumaini meeting room window, listening intently as a team meeting was happening. (I consulted my Ethical Code for Counsellors on how to handle this particular kind of potential breach of confidentiality, to find it silent on the matter!)
- The geckos that dart across the wall of our apartment
- The fact that pineapples are so luscious and cheap
- Oh, and that we haven’t worn a jumper or coat for three months!
If you are the praying kind, please give thanks with us that:
- Our language learning is progressing
- We are growing good relationships
- We have settled on a church to attend
- Our visitors visas have been extended without trouble
- And that our vegetables and herbs are growing (we have started to harvest spinach and herbs!)
And pray for God’s perfect will concerning:
- Our work permits being issued
- That Mark would be ready to start working at Tumaini when this is allowed
- Arrangements for Barbara starting informal English teaching at the university
- How best to support the people we are getting to know who have real needs, whether that is just with money, or whether there are other ways to show God’s love for them.