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Bruce and Kate Dahlman, serving with Africa Inland Mission
June 6, 2017 4:47 pm
Published in: Good

ALL GOOD THINGS….

..must come to an end.  And so here we are.

It’s “that time” again…the time for all sorts of little “lists” and “lasts” associated with the business of moving from one side of the world to the other.  Of uprooting, upheaval and upsetting the daily rhythms of life.  The exciting-yet-bittersweet period of 3-4 weeks where things must be sold, offices must be cleared, bags must be packed, goodbyes must be said.

Chapters that must come to an end once more for Bruce and I.

And it’s been going well, actually; the selling and organizing, things I like to do. It’s pretty much all gone except for the “junky stuff”, things to be given away to whomever wants them. Freeing as this feeling is, it’s always a bit nostalgic to say goodbye to stuff I’d had so much fun putting together for our little apartment (see “Fixer Upper“).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, ALL goodbyes to friends, colleagues, and students will be the hardest.

But truth be told, I’m ready to go, back to Minnesota and our Grand Marais home.  Even though we’ve been very sure about being here, it’s been more of a struggle for me this time around than at any other time or place I’ve lived in Kenya.

Thankfully, however, it’s all the many good things that press themselves to the forefront of my brain as the date for our departure draws nearer:

  • all the days of Kenya warm sunshine, cool evenings, bright stars, gentle rains;
  • all the birds which wake at dawn and keep at it till dusk, singing their little hearts out;
  • amazing colleagues who have kindly and tactfully helped me navigate an educational system that doesn’t always make sense to me (but does to them);
  • the sheer JOY of teaching, and having respectful, polite students who have given me way more happiness than headaches;
  • the after-school giggling voices of tiny children playing outside my windows in the late afternoons;
  • singing, laughing, sharing, and praying with the dear ladies of the weekly Women’s Bible study;
  • the lively fellowship and worship times at our small little church (a plant of the large Nairobi Chapel) in Nakuru town;
  • the warmth, hospitality, and general good manners of all Kenyans, no matter their age, status or position in life
  • the wait staff at Java House, my go-to “alternative office” (I know them all by name; and they all know my favorites)

It’s always been a must to have “packing music” to assist me during this time of transition. My current go-to choice has been “The Piano Guys–Wonders”, first introduced to us by our classical-music-aficionado son, Erik (and if you haven’t heard it, go out and buy it right now).

Just take a listen to “Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends” (you might have to wade through a cheesy intro ad first; then play it, LOUDLY). Oh, how I long to be one of the pianists on this piece in heaven, some day; or even the cellist (an instrument I’ve never touched), since we’re talking about heaven, after all…

But it’s their rendition of the song, “Pictures at an Exhibition” , that really resonates with me now, as I mentally review pictures of our time here at Kabarak. Here are some random favorites:

Just today I made a slideshow of pictures from these last two years, but it’s too big to upload here (and I’m too technically challenged to figure it out).  If you’d like to see it, let me know and we’ll see if it can be uploaded to you!

It’s all good. Even through the rough times, the difficult times I’ve experienced here; they have all been worth it. What an incredible time we’ve had, and how grateful I am to have been here. And…how thankful I am to have had the sense to actually listen and follow His beckoning call that has led us, this one last time. To think that I might have missed it all.

As I said in one of my first blogs on this site: DON’T MISS YOUR LIFE.

Because….He is worth it.

And…He is Good.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him!” Ps. 34:8

 

 

 

 

April 25, 2017 4:14 pm
Published in: Ugali

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

The last day of class of the January-April trimester, teaching first-year nursing students that I have come to know a bit better this second time around (meaning I have learned most of their names) during our Fundamentals of Nursing Practice II course. A promising group of 30 students, with a responsible and receptive class representative, always available and responsive when I have needed her: to find a classroom or a student, or to let me know what’s really going on when I have been totally clueless as to the way things work (or don’t work) around here.

Thankfully, she wasn’t the problem on this last day of class; in fact, she has never been a problem. But one of her colleagues was.

This was the female student who has sometimes gotten up in the middle of class to leave the room, supposedly (I had thought) for a bathroom break during the long, two-to-three-hour lecture time allotted to me and of which I use every second. (I generally give no breaks in class because I’ve learned that if I do, several students invariably don’t come back.) Today, when I asked her where she was going, she informed me that she had to “speak to a friend”.

To which I promptly replied that no, actually, she didn’t need to do this right now, in the middle of our class time. And I made her return to her seat.

Well…apparently this didn’t go down too well with her, because a few minutes later, I caught her texting with someone, her phone strategically placed between her legs so that I supposedly wouldn’t see it.

But I did.

And, adding insult to injury, this was the second phone that I had taken away from her that day, this one borrowed from her partner-in-crime friend who is always seated next to her in class.

Sheesh. What a lot of nerve these two have had.

And so, I ended my last day of teaching for this trimester with two students staying after class to listen to a very impromptu and somewhat incoherent mini-rant by me on what it means to be a college student, a responsible and respectful class participant, a professional-nurse-in-training at a Christian institution, blah, blah, and blah…

They sat there dutifully, of course, like stones, like statues, throughout the whole thing, eyes downcast, mumbling short apologies when I finally let them go. Most likely they recounted the whole episode to the texted “friend” afterwards, perhaps with wounded pride at the unfairness, or the unreasonableness, of their only mzungu teacher.

Not the way that I had wanted, or had hoped, that my last day of teaching would go.

Not what I had expected. And not for the first time with me thinking, “I’m too old for this”.

Not for the first time wondering what am I doing here, really? Has it been worth it, to move halfway around the world to come to this Christian place where respect for teachers or classroom content is sometimes lacking, where there are students who seemingly just don’t care that their parents are working their fingers to the bone for them just to be here?

At Kabarak University, whose motto is “Education in Biblical Perspective“.

Bruce and I are rapidly coming to the end of our time here. I have one more half-trimester to go before the end of June, when we will sell or pack up our few belongings and leave to return to the U.S. Our two years have gone fast, as they always do when viewed from this end of things.

I will teach one short class in May-into-early-June entitled “Ethics and Legal Issues in Nursing Practice“, a course I developed and just finished teaching to the senior group of nursing students (the “pioneer”, or first, nursing class at Kabarak).

This was the class in which the star pupil, the class representative, plagiarized his entire ethical dilemma paper. He had somehow thought that I wouldn’t notice this; or wouldn’t care.

But I did.

 Discouragement. Disillusionment. Defeat.

My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.” Psalm 22:14.

I know that this particular verse from the Psalms is meant to describe Jesus’ agony on the cross. But sometimes, it has seemed that pouring out my life for the students here has been for nothing; has been a complete waste of time.

Especially one week later, when the student who had been texting her friend on the last day of class was caught with “cheat sheet” papers in between the pages of her final examination booklet. Caught by me. Justification of my prior judgments of her character, yes.

But oh….so bittersweet.

This is not the way I had hoped it would go.

Clearly, I believed that God had called us here to Kabarak University for this short season of our lives. Everything that happened to get us here pointed to, no, shoved us in this direction. Support, material supplies, renters, timing….all were a big “Go” from God.

And, thankfully, I still believe that. It was right to come here; we are supposed to be here. I am so grateful for that understanding, because it really helps me during hard times that I have been experienced since being here.

They have not all been hard (but somehow those are the ones that seem to “stand out”). For all the difficult students I’ve had in class, there have always been the well-behaved ones, the ones who sit in the front row and come faithfully on time, who do what I ‘ve asked them to do, the ones who perform well on their assessments.

These are the ones to whom I have poured out my life like water in my teaching. These are the ones who have hopefully learned a bit about what it means to become a Christian nurse, ones who will work to transform their future nursing practice environments into places of true caring, concern, and refuge for those patients and clients who desperately need it.

Related image

I am so grateful for them.

For students like Susan, who sent me an email after teaching my first Fundamentals II course, which read: “I am sorry you won’t be teaching our class next trimester. You are the best teacher that I have ever had….”

For Abigail, who said: “Thank you so much for your good teaching to us. I always learn so much from your classes….”

For Mercy, an amazingly bright student who is financially sponsored by one of our missionary “sister” organizations (because her parents can’t afford to pay the fees at this expensive, private institution), who emails me regularly to find out where she can learn more on her own about the things she’s being taught in class….

Thank you, Lord, for these precious students. Oh how I pray they will continue to grow and mature into their understanding of what it means to be a Christian first; and a nurse, second. Give them a passion for you to help them survive in a country where corruption sometimes seems like breathing; where things often won’t get done without a little “kitu kidogo” (something small; a bribe) to grease the wheels.

How I pray for them and their future ministries as they step out into their futures in this beautiful country with such potential, but one that is so shot through with decades of corruption, graft, and incompetence; including in healthcare.

Help them to be shining lights with integrity that will stand for You amidst this sea of darkness.

And thank you that I have had a small part in guiding them through their educational nursing program during my short time here.

I am so grateful for that.

February 14, 2017 8:31 am
Published in: Ugali

I have a student, let’s call him “Kip”, who is in the first year of the nursing program at Kabarak University.

Kip did not do very well academically in my Fundamentals of Nursing I class last semester. I noticed this early on (week #2) when I caught him cheating on the first 5-point quiz that I gave to the class (and for which he received a “0”, of course).

It sort of went downhill from there.  He did pass all of the other quizzes, although never achieving a “5”. He also participated in writing the Blackboard (online) discussion forum assignments, but regularly posted them so late that his final mark was a “12” out of “35” marks possible. Actually, now that I think about this, he also cheated on one of those posts by copying another student’s work and portraying it as his own.

Did he seriously think I would not notice this? I mean, after all, this guy was already on my “radar”.

Kip also failed both CAT (continuous assessment test) exams. On the first, he got a “6” out of 25 points; on the second, he improved to an “11”, but still two marks shy of the 50% required to pass. His final exam was even more spectacular in it’s failureship (26 marks awarded out of a possible 100). After coming an hour late to the three-hour exam and then leaving an hour early, he sat for most of the middle hour in his front-row chair with arms folded across his chest, glaring at me when he thought I wasn’t watching him.

The main reason for his failures was that he refused to write more than a word or two for the short- and long-answer questions required in all exams we set here. On the final exam, these two categories together made up 80 of the 100 marks.   Short-answer questions had also been included for both CATS. No wonder he failed.

And, lest you think I waited until the final exam to notice this, not true. I had noticed, and indeed had been counseling him and one other student who was also failing, since the first CAT. Everyone else (out of a class of 32 students) was doing fine and passing. As a first-year introductory class, the content for Fundamentals of Nursing is just not that difficult.

So, in order for Kip to continue and academically progress through the nursing program, he would have to take my class, Fundamentals I, again. With me. And, not only that; he would also need to concurrently take Fundamentals of Nursing II in the new January trimester. Also with me.

Does he have a form of dyslexia, since he seems so averse to writing?   This seemed to be a valid consideration to pursue. However, his high school record and performance in other Kabarak courses did not corroborate this.

No. It turn’s out that Kip’s problem, finally confided to our experienced department head (who gently coaxed it out of him) was that he had never had an “mzungu” (white, expatriate) teacher before.

Therefore, Kip saw me only as an outsider, a “Resident Alien”; an “Other”. This apparently freaked him out so much that he was not able to function in my class.

He simply could not, or refused to, cope.

Perhaps it’s a poor analogy, but this incident has been interesting to reflect upon in light of the current hysteria over the new immigration ban that has been introduced by our current U.S. President.

So much rancor from both sides; but also so much fear, specifically fear of the Other.

 We fear what we do not know, that which is foreign and alien to us, or perceived to be threatening to our way of life. How else to explain the massive fear of refugees who

  • have lost their homes through no fault of their own (please click to read the poignant poem by a Kenyan-born Somali poet)
  • are fleeing for their very lives from the same terrorists we accuse them of becoming, even though the risk of this is infinitesimally small (1 in 3.64 billion)
  • have been arduously, gruelingly vetted by the time their U.S. Visas are granted

Perhaps we fear them because they are “Other”. They are not like us; and we don’t think we’ll be able to cope; or perhaps refuse to believe we can.

But in doing so, we forget, in our fear, this one deeper truth: that we are all “Other”, to someone.

Like I am, for my student Kip.

Please try not to chastise me for the simplistic argument you think I’m making here. I do know the situation happening now in the U.S. is way more involved and complicated than this.

But do stop and think for a moment how you also might be perceived as being “Other”; by the way you look, the way you dress, the way you live, the way you think, the way you believe.

Because most likely you are being perceived that way, by someone.

So…what about Kip? He actually sent me an email over the Christmas holidays, promising “new resolutions for the betterment of my results” in the New Year. Thus far, he’s gotten two “5’s” on quizzes, one “5” on a Blackboard assignment, and our first CAT takes place this coming Wednesday (keeping my fingers crossed for him).

“For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow” 1 Chronicles 29:15

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” Deuteronomy 10: 17-19

Love the “Other”, as He first loved us.

 

November 13, 2016 9:07 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

index

I’ve been teaching “Ethics” to my first-year nursing students all month as part of their “Fundamentals of Nursing Practice” course.

We’ve covered the usual definitions and several ethical theories, including biomedical ethics and the major global ethical concerns happening in healthcare today (abortion, euthanasia, organ transplants, etc).  The last lecture (in about a week) will be on “Christian Ethics in Nursing Practice”, something dear to my heart and the raison d’etre that I am here.

But it is the two classical theories of ethics, utilitarianism and deontology, that have been most on my mind and in my thoughts during this past week since the U.S. Presidential election has taken place.

Utilitarianism is the theory of “the end justifies the means”.  It’s the consequences of one’s actions which are the most important, rather than the actions themselves.  An action or practice is right if it leads to the greatest possible balance of good consequences or the least possible balance of bad consequences.  The right action is the one, out of all possible actions, which leads to the maximum sum of human happiness.

Deontology, on the other hand, is the position that judges the morality of an action based on the action’s adherence to a rule or rules.  It is sometimes described as “duty-“, “obligation-” or “rule-” based ethics, because rules “bind you to your duty”.  In this theory, actions are “right” or “wrong” in themselves, without regard to what the consequences of those actions are.

For something to be considered an ethical dilemma, a conflict between two moral imperatives must exist, where to choose one would result in violating the other.  One can’t be both a utilitarian and deontologist at the same time when making this kind of moral choice.

A classic example is from the book “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.  Jean Valjean stole the loaf of bread to feed his family (utilitarian), even though “stealing” is most always thought to be morally wrong (deontological).

Most of us would have no trouble with agreeing that Mr. Valjean made the right choice in this instance; even though most of us also would likely hold to the core moral value of “Stealing is Wrong”.

In my reflections over this past week, I believe the utilitarian argument is exactly what has been used by many Christians, consciously or not, to justify their votes for our new President-elect, Mr. Donald Trump.

How else to explain all the statements and reasons given to justify voting for this man, whose character (or lack thereof) has been on mega-watt display not only during this election cycle, but for most of his adult life?

  • “I’m voting for a President, not a Priest”
  • “His sexual predator language caught on tape happened over 10 years ago”
  • “He has lots of minorities and women working for him; he can’t really hate them”
  • “We have to vote for him, because of the Supreme Court Justice appointments and abortion laws”
  • “I’ve gotta keep those Democrats from taking away my guns”
  • “I can’t possibly vote for Hillary, so I will have to vote for Trump”
  • “Trump is a flawed vessel, but someone who we need to Make America Great Again…”

Utilitarian arguments, all of them.  The ends justifies the means.  In this view, it has been worth it all to vote this (racist, misogynistic, ethnocentric) man into office, so that the consequences for the country might be what most Christians hope and want them to be.

And if you are ok with that, then ok.  Who am I to say that being utilitarian once in awhile is not a good thing?  After all, it was the right decision for Jean Valjean….

And who’s to say that a Republican President and Congress won’t be good for the country?  After all, it wasn’t like I was a big Clinton supporter, either.   Actually (full disclosure), I didn’t even vote (as our absentee ballots “somehow” never found their way to us in Kenya).

But voting for Trump would not have been an option for me (Evan McMullin, maybe?).  So now, I am in that small minority (20%) of white evangelical Christians who was not able to bring myself to “get on board” with this man.  Somehow, I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that “praying for a Trump win” was the right thing to do, especially as a Christian; especially for me.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time (Maya Angelou).

I did.  And I still do; which puts me squarely in the deontological camp concerning Mr. Trump.

Integrity….mine….was on the line.  I could not vote for him and still be morally congruent with myself.

But…now that this election is over, how can I get past who this man is?  I don’t know.  Prayer will help; and time will surely tell all of us what kind of POTUS he will be. And yes, I believe that I can at least try to give him a chance.

In the latest Christianity Today (“Trump Won.  Here’s How 20 Evangelical Leaders Feel”, Nov 11, 2016), Justin Taylor (author/blogger of “The Gospel Coalition”) wrote these words:

“I feel relief Hillary Clinton will never nominate a Supreme Court justice. I feel empathy for those evangelicals who voted for Trump on the calculus of the better of two bad choices, but I feel great frustration at evangelical leaders who excused his many sins, distorted the gospel, and tried to make a positive case for Trump’s virtues as commander in chief. I feel a deep sadness for our minority brothers and sisters who feel further alienation from white evangelicals who excused or ignored Trump’s racism and misogyny.

[But], finally, I feel hope. We do not put our trust in such rulers, but in the reign of our Lord (Ps. 146), praying for our leaders so that we would be free to live peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives for the earthly and eternal good of our neighbors (1 Tim. 2:1-2).”

Yes, ok. I can resonate with this…

…and this (from Kevin DeYoung):

“Elections have consequences.  Yet I’m much more interested in the church—my church and the Church. Our fidelity to biblical truth, our personal holiness, our sincerity, our consistency, our ability to speak with grace and truth, our unwillingness to confuse the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of Christ, our realism in the midst of utopian promises, our hope in the midst of fear and loathing, our winsome witness to the gospel—to embody these realities week after week is more important than what happens” on election day.

Yes.  Christians, whether we voted as utilitarians or deontologists, and no matter which candidate would have won this long, tiring, and contentious election, we must, for the sake of our country and in order to be a credible, life-changing Church in a world that desperately needs it, put aside our differences and come together.

We must all, once again, commit to acting and behaving like the body of Christ.

We must try our best, with God’s help and by His grace, to do the right thing.

 

 

 

October 30, 2016 6:59 pm
Published in: Ugali

“Hey Bruce….is your phone near you, because it’s been ringing and ringing!” I shout out to my husband, who’s working on the computer in the other room.

“Yes, I know, thanks.  I have it right here…it’s Boniface* who’s been calling.  I just can’t talk to him right now,”  he replies.      (*not his real name)

Oh, ok.  That explains it.  It’s Boniface, a friend of many years from the Maasai community below Kijabe.

Boniface who, as a 10th grade high school dropout back in the early 2000’s, was hired to teach an adult literacy course to the unschooled Maasai women of his community.   He did so, faithfully and cheerfully, for about a year.

Even though he was never paid.

“Somehow” the funds that had been raised and contributed to the local Community Women’s Self-Help Organization to pay for these services never found their way to him.

It was partly because of this egregious “oversight” and partly because of our connection to this Maasai community that we agreed to raise the necessary funds to help Boniface finish his remaining two years of high school (note:  high school education in Kenya is not “free”).

Even though education is valued by families, most often there is not enough money for school fees, especially when one has a family consisting of an aging father with 3-4 wives, homes for each, and numerous siblings/relatives to feed and clothe.  Add to that the livestock:  sheep, goats, and cows, and it’s no wonder that Boniface’s family was unable to assist him with fees past the 10th grade.

Therefore, we thought it a “good investment” to support this kind, articulate and bright young man who had demonstrated such selfless concern for the well-being of the illiterate women in his community.

With the help of many others and by God’s grace, Boniface was finally able to attain the long-awaited prize of a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (high school diploma).  With this important credential in hand, employment opportunities would be more forth-coming for him.

Or so we thought.

Granted, jobs for Kenyans living in a rural environment are not easy to find, even with a high school degree.  It wasn’t too long after his graduation that we began to get requests from Boniface for further financial assistance.  These are just a few of them:

  • First, it was for funding so that he could go to school to become an airline pilot (declined);
  • Next, it was money he needed to help record and distribute a music CD (also declined);
  • Requests to help with money for the ongoing medical concerns of his father (occasional help);
  • Requests to fund his brother to put through high school (donor found);
  • Requests to help with money for food for the community during times of drought (regularly);
  • Requests to help build a stone house after he got married a few years ago (declined);
  • Requests to help pay for the labor and materials for a new roof for this house (donor money found);
  • Request to buy beads/materials for his wife to make and sell jewelry (declined);

In short, we have become the default financial resource potential, the automatic phone call or text, whenever Boniface has any kind of monetary need, large or small.

Like we are his personal ATM machine; his very own private and exclusive Barclay’s Bank.

He feels this way because we have known him and have had a relationship with his family and community for over twenty years.  Since he was six years old.

He remembers us coming with the evangelistic team from Kijabe to his village, sitting outside on the plank benches, under the spreading branches of the huge acacia thorn tree, for regular Sunday services.

maasai-church

He was there from the start as the church and elementary buildings were planned and constructed, both of which he attended.   Many people and organizations gave the resources for these buildings; we were simply privileged to be living close by and available for direction and advice during those formative years.

namuncha-school

In short, we are family to Boniface.  Families help each other out in times of need.  And as Americans, we do have access to many more resources than he does, both our own and through others.

So it is actually quite logical in his mind and in classic African reasoning for him to turn to us when needs arise.

Giving to those in need.  It’s a good Christian thing to do, right?  Well, yes.  Of course it is, some of the time.    Needs are always going to be there for people who live in poverty or barely above it.

Over our almost 25 “off” and “on” years in Kenya, we’ve been happy to help many who have needed it, for any number of reasons:  school fees, supplies, money for food or seeds for planting, weddings, funerals, vehicles, hospital bills, etc.  Often we give just a part of what is needed, while others chip in to give the rest.  This is the traditional Kenyan way, known as harambee (“pulling together”).

But sometimes, too much helping can actually hurt.

In a book of the same name (When Helping Hurts by S. Corbett & B. Fikkert), the authors’ premise is that often, in the zeal to give and give and give some more in the face of the real, desperate and heart-wrenching needs, organizations or persons can unwittingly undermine the very people they are trying to help.

Over-giving can be bad because it creates dependency and encourages lack of initiative in the people who are receiving, ultimately doing more harm than good.   By giving each time a need arises, it’s possible that root causes of poverty may never be addressed.    It’s too easy to just ask for help.

We believe that this is what’s happened with Boniface.  Not that we’ve given to him every single time he’s asked, in fact, far from it.  Paying for two years of high school fees has been the largest sustained amount we’ve ever given to him.

But somehow, for him to grow up seeing the resources of wazungus (white people) put to work in building churches and schools, and through our generosity of providing his school fees, Boniface was hooked; or spoiled; or caught, or any number of words one might use to describe this seemingly “automatic reflex” of his to turn to us first when major (and minor) needs arise.

And who can blame him?  In African cultures, it never hurts to ask for help.  One may not always be successful, but one would be foolish to not at least try for funds when one has a relationship with those who have vastly more available resources than oneself.

As missionaries, we do not ever think of ourselves as being “people of means”, but of course, that’s exactly what we are to our friends who often live either one step up or two steps away from dire need and abject poverty.

Over the years, Bruce has tried hard to counsel Boniface, giving him encouragement to find a job, and to stand firm when necessary against his sometimes pleading, wheedling, and incessant demands for money (phone calls, texts, and emails which some days come non-stop).  We’ve prayed with him and for him, and have also encouraged him to seek help and assistance from his family and church community, which he has done.

However, the requests keep coming.  Early this month, he texted to relay a desperate plea for help with the (very cultural) bride price payments to the family of his wife of 2+ years.  Boniface did not pay the money “up front”, as is the usual practice, but is being pressed to pay it now, within one month’s time.  If he can’t come up with the cash and cows (value:  around $1300) to pay for his wife, her brothers have threatened to marry her off to someone else.

Does anyone have a spare $1300 lying around?  That’s right; neither do we.  More importantly, this is a cultural battle that we don’t want to become entangled in or address.

We actually did receive a small encouragement about this issue just today.  Boniface has texted that he has a plan for how to raise the money. He really loves his little family, and we are thrilled that he has come up with this plan all on his own in finding a way forward out of his latest predicament.

So, please do join us in prayer for Boniface, his wife, and their little daughter, Kate (yes, Kate; named after me).  Pray that his plan will be successful so that the bride price can be paid in full.

Pray that the success of this venture would instill confidence into Boniface as he learns that he is able, with God’s help, to face life’s difficulties and to find hard-but-workable solutions to them on his own.

And pray for us, that we will have Christ-like patience and grace on the receiving end of these calls and text messages; to listen and hear him out during what are very stressful times for him; and to not grow weary with allowing him access to us for counsel and advice.  Like a truly Christian family would do.

So that whatever we do is ultimately helpful, and not hurtful, to him.

 

September 26, 2016 5:32 pm
Published in: Ugali

Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka

(In hurry there is no blessing)

Generally speaking (though it’s so cliché to say it), things tend to move a bit slower here in Kenya.

Including right here at Kabarak University.

Take today, for example.

Students are sitting their “supplementary exams” this week.  These are students who, for whatever reason (and I can think of many, quite frankly) failed their end-of-trimester exams in August, and who now get a second chance to try again.

This is primarily so that progression through the academic program sequences won’t get entirely out of whack.

A factor that is especially important in the overly packed nursing curriculum (courtesy of the Nursing Council of Kenya) we have here.  If a student fails a course, especially a pre-requisite one, he or she can get really messed up.

The practice of allowing supplementary exams requires each professor to submit two final exam papers for every subject they teach.   For my courses, this means creating an additional 20 MCQs (multiple choice questions), 6-10 SAQs (short-answer questions; 40 marks), and 2-4 LAQs (long-answer questions; 40 marks).  One hundred extra marks to imagine, construct, and wring out of my brain for everything I teach.

Of course, this is no picnic for students either.  In addition to re-cramming for old classes while missing new ones, students must also pay a “supplementary fee” for the privilege of re-taking an exam.  This is additional money that many students do not have, or are ashamed to ask their parents for because they don’t want to admit to them that they have failed (as they know all too well how hard their folks have worked to get them here in the first place).

So; a costly privilege indeed, for everyone involved.

I had the privilege of being the “Chief Invigilator” for this morning’s first supplementary session from 9:00-12:00.  It was my job to collect and proctor three nursing department examinations.

Dutifully, I left the house around 8:15 to head over to the Examination Office (hours of operation: 8-5) to collect tests, foolscaps, attendance sheets, and one or two other bureaucratic forms that are so much a part of the educational system here (a legacy from the British, perhaps?).  However, the “lady with the key” had not yet arrived.

No worries (hakuna matata), as I was told she was “on the way coming”.  And indeed, she arrived right on time, at 8:30.  Fortunately, all of my sealed brown envelopes containing the various and sundry items necessary for each exam were ready and waiting for me.

This left plenty of time to get to the auditorium, the standard venue for all major exams that take place here on campus.

On my way there, however, I received the message that the auditorium was being used for something else today.  The only room choices left were the Chemistry Lab, with backless stools and laboratory counter tops, not exactly ideal for writing a major, three-hour exam…or, a classroom with regular student chairs in the new almost-finished-but-still-noisy-construction-zone Health Sciences building.

Hakuna matataAt least I had a choice!  I decided to go with the regular chairs and hope there would be a door to shut out the noise (there was).   However, how to let students know?  Detouring over to the old Health Sciences office, I was glad to see that the “lady with the phone numbers” was in.   All students were eventually called and re-routed to the new venue, and everything got rolling by 9:30 a.m.

Right on time.

I was way more fortunate than a colleague, who was proctoring six exams for her department and also venue-less.  She and her students eventually came to join us in the same hard-fought-for classroom space, dragging their chairs behind them.  When she had gone to the Exam Office (at 8:30, right on time), some of her exams had not even been printed yet.  Consequently, those guys didn’t even get started until sometime after 10:00 a.m.

Hakuna matata.  Haraka haraka haina baraka.

Things like this happen here at Kabarak every single day.  Nobody expects it to be otherwise; nobody bats an eye if meetings, functions or classes don’t actually start “on time”, whatever that means.

This is the Status Quo Here, and around Kenya as a whole (dare I be so bold, to say that?).  We’re just not in a big hurry here, folks.  Relax, take your time.  What is the rush?

There are reasons for this “no hurry” culture, of course.   For one thing, Africa as a whole is more relational-based, community centered, and not time-oriented.  Articles, books, and probably more than a few doctoral theses have been written on this topic.  No need to rehash it all here.

It’s just me that needs to learn how to live more “in the moment” this way, like the Kenyans do so well.  Even though I’ve been here for a gazillion 20+ years already, I find that I still need to learn how to relax, how to let go, how to not sweat the “time” thing, how to be able to roll (“my word” for this year) with it all.   To know that things do eventually happen and get done around here; students get taught, exams get taken, life gets lived.

And not always on crazy-mzungu-AmericanKate Standard Time”.

I need to learn how to find the blessing in the not hurrying mindset of life.  So far, this blessing has mostly eluded me here at Kabarak.  But I’m desperate to find it.  I want to believe that it is truly and actually there.

Take tomorrow, for example.

I have class in the morning from 8:00-11:00.  This is week #3 for this particular class, and we still do not have a designated classroom space.  The first week we were at the online learning center.  Last week, it was the Chemistry Lab (the one with the backless chairs).   I’m supposed to receive a call today “by the end of the business hours” (the scheduler’s words), letting me know where we will be.  Perhaps it will be in the library; perhaps in a standard lecture room (pipe dream); perhaps just the Chemistry Lab again.

And perhaps I won’t find out anything until tomorrow morning at 7:30 or 7:45, as I run around campus looking for an open classroom (been there, done that, more than once).

One thing I know: not taking on the unnecessary stress of things that are out of my control, things that will eventually work themselves out and in the long run won’t matter much anyway; for me to learn this simple yet profound lesson at Kabarak in my life here would be a great blessing indeed.

My students already know this.  They are not worried about tomorrow.  They are relaxed, calm, and ready to go, no matter what happens and no matter how long it might take to find us a classroom.  They are like this based on years and years of practice, of living their entire lives this way.

Because they know that, whatever happens, they will be right on time.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phillipians 4:  6-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 14, 2016 4:03 pm
Published in: Bad

We had a robbery last week in our Kabarak apartment.

The day had started out normally enough with us returning from Nairobi a day later than originally planned, due to a “truckers’ strike” that was scheduled to block the main A-104 highway about half-way between Nairobi and Nakuru (normally a 2 ½-3 hour trip from point to point, depending upon the traffic).

Taking an alternative route around this almost assuredly riotous, rock-throwing event would have added about 5 hours’ additional driving time to get home.

The strike was advertised in the Daily Nation (the country’s main newspaper), complete with a map pinpointing the places where angry truck drivers were going to gather.  So we stayed an extra day in “town” (Nairobi).

But, unbeknownst to us as to the reasons why, the trucker’s strike actually never happened at all.

However, we have learned over the years living in Kenya that it’s wise/prudent to pay attention to the potential for unrest in areas that we might find ourselves in or be traveling through.  After almost 25 years of comings and goings, we are not “newbies”; we have learned that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

At least, I thought I had learned this

Arriving home to Kabarak a day later without incident, we unpacked the car as usual.  In addition to our many things, we were also carrying extra luggage of Kabarak friends and their family (just arrived from the U.S.) who were on their way to climb Mt. Kenya over the next five days.

Leaving the family’s suitcases in the car (providentially), we only took the backpack (containing their two computers and quite a substantial amount of U.S. dollars) of our Kabarak friends up to our apartment for “safe keeping” (big mistake).

Later that afternoon (with Bruce gone to his office), I noticed 4-year-old Jonah (who still prefers to call me “Uncle Kate”) and his 1 ½ year old brother Peter outside, blowing bubbles.  Feeling the need for an “Uncle-Auntie  moment” before making dinner, I stepped outside for a quick hug/giggle with them…

…not bothering to lock the door to my upstairs apartment behind me.  After all, I was only going to be outside for five minutes.  Right there in the side yard between our two apartment blocks.

Five minutes….which proceeded to turn into ten with the arrival of a neighbor walking by, the one who has been house-bound with a severe back injury for months (after a road-traffic accident).  Here she was, walking across the lawn on her own!  Of course I had to greet her, too….

…in addition to Mama Jonah, who stepped outside five minutes after that with new baby Boaz in her arms.  We all got to “ooh” and “ahhh” over him as well….

Five….ten….fifteen….perhaps twenty minutes before I returned to my cute little (unlocked) apartment up the stairs and around the corner.

I actually prepared and got dinner into the oven before looking for my iPhone to check the time….and couldn’t find it.  That’s when I realized, increduously, that my computer was also nowhere to be seen.

Thinking I had mislaid both of them (because that’s not uncommon for me), I continued checking around the rooms until I noticed that my old iPad, too, was gone, missing from the nightstand.  With growing dismay, I checked my purse:  no wallet.  Panicking now, I raced into the guest room/office, only to see empty space between bed and cabinet, the spot where we had just placed our friends’ backpack a few hours before.

Shock.  HorrorPunch-to-the-gutsick-feeling.

The slowly-dawning realization penetrating through the fog of “this can’t be happening to me; not here!”….the awful truth crystallizing into my conscious brain:  they are all gone.  Stolen.

And then, this chilling thought….

Who has been watching me?  Because, for this to have happened so quickly, someone must have been watching, waiting, perhaps longer than just today, for the opportunity to pounce.  I was right there, outside, not far, just around the corner.  But, unfortunately for me, out of sight of the main entry stairs up to my apartment.

Whoever it was would have had to be quick, up the stairs, all the way into the back bedroom where my computer, phone, and IPad were, into the closet for my wallet, into the office for the backpack…and back down again.

Whoa

I had been doing so well here, settling in.  I had just started to relax and feel normal, to feel at home, safe.  Falsely so….?

Kabarak, out in the country, so peaceful, so pastoral.  Hadn’t Bruce and I just taken a walk recently around the campus perimeter road (1+ mile) without locking the door?  How often do I dash over to Mama Jonah’s for just a minute, to get from or bring something over to her?

We always lock the apartment when going to class, heading to the office or to town….and were perhaps starting to get a bit too comfortable, a bit too complacent with the supposed safety and security of this place.

Shattered.  Devastated.

Police came to take statements, write down serial numbers, and ask questions (“Why didn’t you lock your apartment?”  Well yes.  Why didn’t I, indeed?)

There are, at this point in time, few leads.

A neighbor remembered seeing a young man “with a backpack over his shoulder, on the phone”, walking away from our building.  She didn’t know who he was…perhaps a Kabarak student, or someone looking for someone…

And then there were the tree guys, who had been here for a week, cutting dead branches off the huge eucalyptus tree in front of the main entrance, right outside my kitchen window.  Had they heard my computer music playing (loudly, with abandon; just the way I like it; so careless) as I cooked dinner each night?

I do remember them watching me as I walked to and fro from class that week…

(Because I don’t suspect any of my neighbors in my own (or other) apartment block(s).  Not for a second.  Most were not even home.)

Feelings of remorse, violation, anxiousness (fear) over how to break the news to our friends who were at that moment on Mt. Kenya, oblivious to this hard news and unreachable for the next few days.

But also…the tiny but growing feelings such as these:

  • Gratefulness that I had not gone up to the apartment sooner, where I might have surprised “him” or “them” (would they have bashed me over the head…or worse?)
  • Deep appreciation for my Bible study ladies who asked to come and pray with me that night
  • Sheer relief that I had had the foresight (a real God prompting, actually) to back up my computer earlier that same day
  • Gratitude that Bruce still had his old, android smart-phone and an even older Samsung computer that I am now able to use, even as I pain-stakingly learn how to do “Windows 2007” (I’m a Mac girl)
  • Thankful that I was able to get my same phone number back from Safaricom (please do give me a call or text if you’re in Kenya, so I can get you back into my phone)

And…incredibly humbled and amazed at the grace with which our friends received this hard news when they returned to Kabarak three days later.

Hold things lightly.  Hadn’t I written a blog about this very thing last year as we began our journey to Kenya?  At that time, I was writing about leaving Grand Marais and all our “earthly treasures” behind….

This incident has been a hard reminder for me of this very truth once again.  Obviously, I am humbly continuing to learn how to hold things lightly.  This is a good thing, because they are not really mine anyway, not for keeps.  Even in the best of circumstances, all of my material things are temporary.  Even as I am learning how to be a better steward of those things, a bit “older and wiser” (i.e., someone will now be fanatical about locking the door…).

When things are taken away from me prematurely, unexpectedly, or especially due to my own carelessness or complacency, I also need to learn how to forgive myself and let go Because, most importantly, the reality is that I am not ever, completely or ultimately, in control of my own life or what happens to me.

God is.  He knew what would happen here a week ago.  He also knew how to infuse this very hard, extremely unpleasant and most unforeseen and unwelcome event with flashes of His grace and redemption.  He always does.

I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. Which means that I must also continuously learn to surrender and trust the One to whom I belong.  Especially when times are hard.

A Kenyan friend posted this interesting version of Ephesians 3:20 on Facebook the other day. It is a verse to declare and proclam over my life once again, always and forever:

God will do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think.  Because I honor Him, His blessings will chase me down and overtake me.  I will be in the right place at the right timeI am surrounded by God’s favor“.

Who has been watching meHe has His eye is on this little sparrow; and I’m so grateful to know that He’s always there, watching over me.

Good, bad, or ugali.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 5, 2016 12:31 pm
Published in: Good

It’s official!  I have now passed the half-year mark of being in Kenya at Kabarak University (Oct 29th-April 29th; for Bruce, a few months longer, as he arrived August, 2015).

Slowly by slowly, I have settled in and am relaxing a bit more into my role and life here on this lovely, leafy, pastoral Campus-on-the-Equator.

As the Kenyans say, I am now “somehow getting used” (used as in “used to”; pronounced like boost).

Just a bit different than that first time around in 1992.

Twenty-three+ years ago, we came to settle into Kijabe, Kenya with our three kids and 35 pieces of luggage in tow. For five people. Seven items per person. (And yes, I do cringe just admitting that now, although it seemed like a good idea at the time).

Going to Kenya-1

At Kijabe Hospital that December, 1992, Bruce was one of four primary care doctors, one of whom also functioned as the Hospital Administrator/Medical Director. No other specialists, no clinical officers or interns, only one (two?) surgeon(s), and two nurse anesthetists.

Therefore, Bruce was immediately sucked into the black hole of the hospital a few days after our arrival from across the world to Kenya. We arrived on a Friday; by Monday, he was “on call”.

I got a bit of a reprieve, however. Initially a stay-at-home Mom, one piece of advice I received a few days after arrival was this:

Don’t feel like you have to do much of anything for the first six months here except just learn how to survive.

Wow. Seemed like a long time to just settle in…(although unpacking all that luggage did take awhile…).

But guess what? It did seem to take all of that time, together with my stretched-to-the-max ingenuity, creativity and willpower, just to get comfortable with the basics:

  • How to actually breathe/get oxygen in the rarefied, 7000-feet-above-sea-level air, at a place where directions consisted mostly of “up” or “down” (the escarpment)
  • Where to get “stuff”: all of the Xs, Ys, and Zs, or at least reasonable facsimiles thereof = “Blue Band” for margarine; “UHT” for milk; “fillet” for hamburger
  • Learning how to make almost everything from scratch (breads & sauces: not bad; mayonnaise: not so much) in order to assemble reasonably palatable meals that my kids would actually recognize/eat
  • Soaking veggies and fruits, bought from the door by the never-ending parade of vegetable ladies, in bleach…(to avoid acquiring unwanted “micro-friends”)
  • Making American and Kenyan friends; learning Swahili; hiring both an inside and outside houseworker (did we need them? Yes we did)
  • Wrapping our brains around the new form of currency (“Monopoly” money: all those Ksh/ 100s, 200s, 500s..)
  • Remembering to lock the iron-grilled gates and barred windows each night… and wondering, initially, are my kids safe here? (Yes. Very).
  • And…finally…learning how to operate the old Landcruiser, navigating it carefully on the “wrong” side of the road (took four months for me to work up the nerve to drive into Nairobi; a much shorter time for Bruce)

So, these past six months or so here in Kabarak? Piece o’ cake. Right?

Right.

For Bruce.

He is one of “those kinds of people” who can dive right into whatever life, whichever hemisphere he happens to find himself in. He never looks back, never thinks twice about any of this kind of introspective stuff.

However, surprisingly (or not), it has taken all of this time for me. Even with no kids and no massive amounts of luggage, even with all my past of living here, being extremely familiar and comfortable with the road-traffic situation/people/foods/quirks/ways of life that I truly love….

Somehow, just like in 1992, six months in seems to be a “magic key”, a turning-the-corner point, the period of adjustment that I have needed to relearn and feel at home with everything here, once again.

Transitioning time needed:

To learn how to relax (when the power goes out; when the taps go dry; when the wonky Internet doesn’t connect; when the piles of laundry pile up, sometimes for weeks)

To learn how to breathe (when negotiating roadspace with lorries, tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, animals, people; when perhaps confronting a bat, “hanging out” on the outside wall, this close to my front door)

To learn how to let go (of missing family, home, dog, my American life; to quit scheming for ways to perhaps go there for just a bit; to turn my eyes and heart away from the longing of it all).

To learn how to commit (to the not-so-intuitive ways of doing things at this nursing school; to learn other perspectives, points of view, to adjust expectations and learn by doing, all things I had thought I learned before, but am somehow learning all over again).

To begin to embrace this life that I have been given, that I have been called to live here, with all of its challenges, opportunities, trials…and joys.

One six-month step at a time.

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O’Donohue ~ (emphasis added)

March 16, 2016 11:39 pm
Published in: Good

The African dawn comes early on the equator.

Before the sun even pops up over the horizon (between 6-6:30 a.m.), the “I’m Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” bird (anyone remember him?) is the first to arise in our neighborhood. Unlike the TV version, the repetitive refrain of this feathered friend is tranquil and mellow, gently prodding us out of sleep, quietly announcing that once again, it’s almost time to “rise and shine”.

The red-breasted cuckoo is also awake with a similar, abbreviated call. This bird is very ubiquitous to all the places we’ve ever lived in Kenya. In fact, nothing assures us more that we’re “home in Africa” like this guy’s soft, three-noted coo, quietly calling to us through the early morning mist.

Red-chested_Cuckoo_(Cuculus_solitarius)_in_tree_crop

Of course, as anyone who has ever spent time in Kenya knows, one doesn’t need an alarm clock when there are Hadada ibis birds to perform this function for you. These long-beaked stalkers, unlike their soft, melodic choir-mates, have a particularly grating, harsh sound (noise). No oversleeping when they fly by, singly or en masse.

HadedaIbis

 

With over 1100 recorded species of birds in Kenya alone, these three early birds are soon joined by many more: chirpers and warblers, minstrels and crooners, all intent on welcoming each new day by singing together in joyful, blended harmony; just as they were created to do.

Extravagance at dawn…new every morning.

We’ve been clicking along here at Kabarak, making our way “slowly by slowly” through the semester and adjusting to life on this side; almost five months now. Some days are harder than others; some days are routine; and some, thankfully, have been just downright wonderful.

My students have been “slowly by slowly” coming around to the idea that they can get to class on time, which means fewer “rants” from me, and more productive time for them…

This is a good thing.

Changes are also occurring in the Health Sciences Administration. The Dean has hired an Administrative Assistant and has appointed an acting Head of Nursing, both welcome steps in bringing order into the chaos that had pretty much been the norm in our department, up till now.

The Kabarak Faculty Senate also just passed a recommendation, pushed by Dr. Bruce and colleagues, that assessments for all courses be CHANGED from 30/70 (30% total for all “formative assessments”, i.e., all papers, quizzes, tests during the semester; 70% for the final exam) to 50/50. This is a HUGE DEAL, which should help stem the worrying tide of having almost one-third of our students fail at least one course per semester (yes, you read that right).

Home Front: the water/power situation has become more tolerable since we “junked” the instant hot shower (where “scalding” was the only temperature due to lack of water pressure) in favor of the “old-fashioned” hot water heater. Now, we have control (ha-HA!) over the “hot-cold” feature; a most welcome improvement.

We just need to be flexible to take those showers during times when both water and power are there.

Small mercies of life. Fresh and new, every morning. No matter what has happened in the days/weeks/months before.

Each and every day, another chance, another opportunity to

  • Work on attitudes
  • Deepen growing relationships
  • Learn from colleagues
  • Do hard work

Share the Treasure.

And, when we blow it, we will take heart in knowing that, Lord willing, another day awaits us; another African dawn will come to sing us awake.

Sing us awake to a new day for Redemption, a new day for Grace.

Call us awake to the realities of His Extravagant Mercies for us, which are

New

Every morning.

 

 

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February 10, 2016 2:24 pm
Published in: Ugali

I read my students the riot act yesterday.

Reading the Riot Act: “To give someone a severe scolding; to reprimand rowdy characters and warn them to stop behaving badly”.

Not that I was worried that my students were actually thinking about or preparing to riot or anything like that…

However, they were indeed deserving of at least a gentle scolding, using the Kenyan approach, saying what needed to be said to them without sounding too “kali” (harsh/fierce).

For me, it was sort of the “last straw”, or perhaps a “last ditch effort” on my part to try and get them to see the importance of coming to class…on time (as, attendance is required by the University, with records to be kept and turned in by me).

You see, here at Kabarak (as in many other universities across Kenya), there is this culture of coming fashionably late to class. For example, if class is scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m., most students will arrive somewhere around 8:10 or 8:15; while one or two will routinely show up 30 minutes late.

In fact, I have one student who seems to relish coming to class about 30-45 minutes late each week. Here she comes, waltzing through the door on her 3-4-inch heels, sashaying her way slowly across the room to take the last remaining/available seat in the class, which is usually in the front row.

No one bats an eye as she does this.

Since classes here are scheduled in large (3-4 hours) blocks of time (another thing that is not exactly ideal), for students to come “a bit late” to class seems like no big deal to them.

And, in defense of the students, they are quite used to many of their (usually part-time) lecturers not showing up for class until 20-30 minutes after the scheduled hour to begin. This is because the part-timers are coming from off campus and, if they have no car of their own, are at the mercy of the erratic schedule of the matatu buses/drivers to get here.

Or so they say.

But I am not a “part-time lecturer”; I actually live here on campus (which they know).

I arrive at the classroom at least 15-20 minutes early, in order to heft all of my equipment into the room to set up:

  • the projector;
  • the computer;
  • the speakers;
  • the extension cord to hook them all up (and pray that the power is “on”);
  • all of my notes and handouts;
  • my water bottle (needed when one is speaking for 3 hours at a time);
  • and my phone (to keep time).

I also usually need to erase the whiteboard from the previous class and/or re-arrange or collect the needed number of chairs ….

This all takes about 15-20 minutes. And this, only if the classroom we normally meet in has not been “hijacked”/occupied by another teacher/class (a whole ‘nuther topic, folks; it’s been a bit “dog eat dog” around here for classroom space. This will hopefully change when our new, large Health Sciences classroom block is ready for us in a month or so).

All that to say: I AM ALWAYS THERE AND ALWAYS ON TIME.

And my students know this, having met with me now for almost a month.

Yes, of course I am a “mzungu” (ex-patriot/white) teacher, from a culture where “time-keeping” is of the utmost importance; where if students are late they may or may not be admitted, or at least feel a bit ashamed of walking in late; and would never do it so casually or blithely or routinely as happens here.

But….quite frankly, I don’t “buy” the excuse that “this is a cultural issue” and one that I must adapt to. Not after teaching at Kijabe School of Nursing for five years, where
students had no trouble or issue with coming to class on time, either for me or for any of my Kenyan colleagues.

Plus, my students all have iPhones or some kind of smart phone device, which, believe me, they know how to use, and to their advantage (including being able to read the time).

So….back to the “riot act”:

I talked about their expectations of me; and then my expectations of them. I talked about professionalism and what that means in the context of becoming a BScN educated nurse. I talked about the issues of respect, accountability, integrity, courtesy, and how these concepts are important here at Kabarak, at this Christian University, in this Christian context….

Blah, blah, blah….

Was this effective? Hard to know, as with most Kenyan classes I’ve taught or seen, the teacher has the floor. No one will make comments or say anything, or even betray any sign or flicker of emotion while the teacher is speaking to (or haranguing at) them.

They will sit there, like stones, like statues…

Which is what they did.

Which has been a bit discouraging for me.  I had expected so much more of them.

More importantly, I had expected so much more of myself in being here to teach them.

You see, my main goal, my primary raison d’etre for being here in Kenya at all, is not to help educate more Kenyan nurses (although this is important).

With all the nurse training schools and the proliferation of more and more BScN programmes popping up in this country, some could justifiably argue (and I would tend to agree) that Kenya does not really need me to help educate more nurses.

Rather, my whole hope and goal in coming here once again to Kenya as an AIM missionary is to “come alongside” Christian nursing students in this Christian University, in order to help them see their future lives and work in terms of their Christianity first; and in terms of their future nursing profession, second.

My dream for my students here is for them to see their lives through the lens of the Gospel, so that they are truly transformed by its power. So that they, in turn, can take this Good News (and yes, take it alongside their newly earned competencies in nursing) out into the communities and clinics where they will eventually live and work.

Where this message of the transforming power of Christ is still so urgently, so desperately, needed.

That is what I am doing here.

So, if you are praying for me, please say a little prayer that I can get through to my students; that I can somehow connect with them; and that, perhaps in some small way, they will be able to see the Light of Christ leaking out through me here and there in how I communicate with them, in what I say, in how I teach, in what I do.

In how I live out my life in front of them.

Pray that I can “get out of the way” so that He will be seen.  So that He will matter most to them.

So that they will realize that their passion for nursing needs to be fueled by their passion for Christ.

So that, some day, this passion will also become their raison d’etre.