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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

 

 

 

 

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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November 1, 2015 3:04 am
Published in: Good

We arrived in Kenya two nights ago. The jet lag arrived today.

It’s finally caught up with me; just like I knew it would.

Whole-body weariness, the kind that settles on you like an oppressive blanket, enveloping you not with a sense of warmth or comfort, but rather heaviness and subjugation, leaving one powerless in its mind-numbing grip.

I do not do well with jet lag.

I am not like some (i.e., Bruce) who are able to push through/ignore jet lag and keep to a normal schedule of the day, the idea being to force the body to adapt quicker to the new time zone.

This has never worked for me. Even if I do manage to stay up until 9 or 10 at night, I will most assuredly find myself wide-awake and raring to go at 1:30 or 2 a.m. the next morning, my brain on Minnesota time, eight hours behind the Kenya clock.

Maybe a week, maybe ten days, before the “lag” catches up with the “jet”.

The two long flights themselves were fine: on time and uneventful, just the way we like them. Economy-class-cramped, crowded with every seat taken (who are all these people flying to Nairobi on a non-holiday, ordinary Thursday morning?), and the sometimes less-than-appetizing airplane food aside, I still marvel that one can be half-way around the world, 8,000 miles away from home, in less than 24 hours.

Including the four-hour layover at the lovely Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport, always a treat. A major airport renovation was happening there, resulting in many shops being closed or covered in plastic; my favorite restaurant’s “giant teacup” tables (see pic below from a previous trip) were also missing, which was a bit disappointing.

TeacupSchiphol

Still, nothing beats a warm Dutch chocolate croissant and strong cup of Starbucks to perk one up at 5:30 a.m. after an eight-hour overnight, mostly sleepless flight across the ocean, illuminated this time by a full moon in a cloudless sky, Orion shining brightly through the window.

And it hits me, once again, that this is my life. This is the life that I get to live. Me, a small town Iowa farmer’s daughter, introverted and cautious, not an adventure seeker in any way but someone who married the extrovert with the big dreams, and has an even bigger God, who has made it all happen for us over these past 20+ years.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea….” (Ps. 139:9)

Here we go, once again. Moving back to Kenya with four trunks and two suitcases (plus carryons) crammed to the hilt (and bang on 50 pounds each, the allowed limit, thanks to ultra-packer-extraordinaire Bruce) with

  • clothes
  • shoes
  • books
  • DVDs
  • food
  • kitchen gadgets
  • more clothes
  • more books
  • and whatever-else-other-random-thing-Kate-thinks-she-needs

for our two-year commitment to teach and mentor Christian doctors and nursing students at Kabarak University.

“…even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139: 10).

God is here.

Even as I deal with jet lag and bittersweet feelings of loss for my precious U.S. family and life, I feel it: His presence, His eye on me like a steady beam of light, full of love and assurance, for me, as I lay awake through the early morning hours under the mosquito net, pondering the “what ifs” and “what will be’s” of our once-again new life in Kenya.

As I once again listen to the gentle Swahili cadences of the early morning workers arriving to fix our breakfast; as I once again learn how to “ballet-dance” drive, weave, and bob in and out of the heart-stopping traffic through the ever-more-congested city streets; and as I once again get to walk beneath the willowy jacaranda trees fast dropping their luscious purple petals, carpeting the sidewalks and roads.

jacarandaNBI

 

As I once again begin to fall in love with this country and its people who have been such a big part of my life and who are so dear to my heart.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man
the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”
(1 Cor. 2:9).

 He is here.  God with us.  Immanuel.

And He has prepared the way.  It is He who is here through the jet lag, as I fix my mind on Him during these sleepless wee hours of the night.  And it is He who will guide us, and hold us fast, as we step out in faith here in Africa, once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2, 2015 11:43 am
Published in: Good

We are having a whole lotta “good” in our lives right now (as opposed to “bad” or “ugali”;  see “Hello World” post that explains our blog title).

Our firstborn son is getting married to the love of his life, two weeks from today.

So, we (darling daughter, lovely daughter-in-law-to-be, amazing sister-in-law, “good sport” son, me, and just about anybody else we come across who will listen to our chatter) are currently in the throes of wedding preparations.

Actually, throes is not the correct word at all, as it means “in the middle of doing or dealing with something very difficult or painful”.

This is so not what we are doing; this is so not the adjective to describe this surreal, enchanting, magical, incredible “micro-season” of our lives.

We are joyfully having the time of our lives, dashing around to buy this charming decorative ornament, these lovely flowers, that color of table runner (“aubergine”), those twinkly lights, reserving hotel rooms, organizing the rehearsal time and OH YES, planning for that dinner, too…

And me…. buying no less than five mother-of-the-groom dresses. Yes, five. Three have already gone back to the store; and the last one not making the cut goes back today, leaving

  • the flowing, elegant one that is something blue. Together with
  • the diamond-like earrings, necklace, and bracelet from a friend (something borrowed);
  • the sparkly shoes with just enough “bling” (something new);
  • and the something old?   Well now….all those things must adorn someone…

(Yes, I realize thesesomethings” are the bride’s purview. But hey….it’s my blog and I’ll something if I want to…).

Good. It’s all good…so incredibly, wonderfully good.

Because there is nothing so wonderful as seeing one of your children find the right person with whom to spend the rest of his or her life.

It’s been a long time coming for our Erik.

Thirty-three years ago this past April, Bruce and I were blessed with an extremely unique, amazing and whip-smart little boy.

Boundary Waters Boys - Version 2

An exceptional, reserved, one-of-a-kind type of guy who has had his fair share of challenges in this world…but one who has always stayed to “true” to his inner self, who knows clearly “who he is” and what he wants out of life.

We admire that in him, even though at times, we may have not always agreed with his decisions.

And…his life hasn’t always been easy.

Especially when his parents dragged him to live halfway around the world, out of his comfort zone and into the metaphorical “jungle”, to Kenya; all at the tender age of 10.

We had been called….but he had not.

Oh…there was no “kicking and screaming”; but for a sensitive, introverted guy like our Erik, this “new adventure” must have come completely “out of the blue” for him.

But he, born with the kind of temperament that can stand strong, even in times of personal adversity, somehow managed to adapt and survive, if not exactly thrive, over there during those two and a half years.

Erik and Twiga

And we, the called-by-God-but-still-fallible parents, feeling our share of “missionary guilt” over the years, have apologized, sincerely from the heart, for the pain and the sacrifice that such a move to Kenya must have caused him; for all the things it might have cost him, so many long years ago.

We think he’s forgiven us…..(smile). He still loves Kenyan chai and is always asking us to bring carvings or malachite figurines back with us when we go there (so he can give them to friends).

And he has continued to be a “survivor” through all of the curveballs that life has thrown at him:

  • through junior high (knowing no one in his class of over 1000 students in 8th grade, to successfully finding his place and his “group” by high school graduation);
  • college (a “break-up” experience with a long-time girlfriend of three years);
  • post-graduate education (it’s not exactly gone the way we all thought it might, although he’s still hanging in there).

He has done all of this with courage, fortitude, and determination, always moving forward even when it would have been easy, some of those times, to just “throw in the towel”.

We are so proud of him.

Even though we haven’t always agreed with some of his life choices (this does not include his choice of fiancee; we adore her!). But they are his choices; he “owns” them.  And that is the way it should be.

So, happy wedding, Erik!  We are so grateful to God for the way He has brought you and Mizuho together. We want you to know that on your special day, we will be appropriately reserved, dignified, and restrained in our outward demonstrations of love and affection towards you.

But inwardly, we will be jumping up and down, thrilled, ecstatic, whooping and hollering with joy, as we watch you get married to the person with whom you are complete.

Just look into our eyes…it will all be there.

 

 

August 1, 2015 4:09 pm
Published in: Good

“I have a little shadow; she goes everywhere with me….”*

We have an 11-year-old dog, Chloe, that we’ve had since she was about six weeks old. She was a present to my daughter and me back in 2004 when we were living in Kenya and down to our last child. Kaari, missing her two older brothers (in college in the U.S.), had turned to me one day in July and said, simply, “Mom…we need a dog”.

Lots of expatriates living in Kenya have dogs, for lots of different reasons. Usually they tend to be on the larger side, like a German shepherd, perhaps; or, an exotic brand like the Rhodesian ridgeback (Rugongo) we were privileged to “babysit” for a year while her owners were on home assignment. In fact, dog-sitting other families’ dogs had been the norm for us. In addition to the ridgeback, over the years we had also welcomed a border collie (Max), a golden retriever (Jenna), and one sweet old black Labrador (Cinder), who had been passed around among several families before she got to us (and stayed, faithfully, until she died).

We were also once “adopted” by a cat (Whisper), whose owners had left and who, perhaps, had escaped the family that she had been given to, if there had been one (we never found out). Not really being “cat people” (because of allergies for two of us), she nevertheless determined that we were her new family. As we seemed to have little choice in the matter, she stayed, and became dearly loved; until her cat “nine lives” (and then some) ran out (note to future Kenya ex-pats: unless you can keep them totally inside, cats are probably not the best idea…).

So, when Kaari asked for a dog in her junior year of high school, I was approachable; but did not really relish the thought of getting a “big dog”. Big dogs meant big vet bills, big food purchases, and big…”everything” else. And, having lived in a “pass-the-dog-around” community for a few years, I knew that it was sometimes quite hard to find the right family to watch your dog when it was your turn to leave for those sometimes lengthy home assignments.

However, we simply couldn’t resist the picture of a cute, wispy-looking puppy on the “Notice Board” at Sarit Centre (in Nairobi) one day. The adorable little puffball depicted there appeared to have “baby zebra stripes”, black alternating with white, and an extravagant plume of a curly tail. The price was right, and so was the timing. And so, we found ourselves heading over to check him out…

Mr. Zebra-Stripe was enchanting; however, he was also very rambunctious, and actually, a little bitty rascal. Two things that were not exactly what I had had in mind. So, we picked out his sweet-tempered sister instead, who, although lacking the stripes, was just as adorable, and had endearing, cheetah-like tear marks” of black from the inner corners of both eyes downwards across each side of her face…

Eleven years later, she is still with us, cheetah-stripes fading with age, having made the trip across the ocean in 2010 with me to our northern MN home. (And that is another whole 30-minute story in itself; it’s a miracle we both survived that ordeal…a trip, I might add, which will only happen once in her lifetime). She is now, of course, my dog, with the daughter long-gone, first to college, then career, then career + marriage.

MYDC0756.JPG

Adult Chloe

And, I am her person. She absolutely adores me, and is happiest when she can be where I am at all times. When I get up in the morning, she is there, on the bed or right next to it. Like a shadow, she follows me: into the bathroom, down the stairs for coffee, up the stairs to get dressed, back down for breakfast, etc. All day long, day in, day out.  When I go outside, she might whine and carry on if I don’t let her out with me. And when I do come back, she will happily run to greet me from wherever she has been, waiting and watching, for my return.

If I have been gone for an extended time, she will be ecstatic, sometimes barking, sometimes weaving herself in and out between my legs, rubbing her face all over them, with salty-doggy- messy-licky kisses. Tail and whole body manic with wagging and wriggling. Sometimes this occurs even if I’ve been gone only a few hours.

When we return to Kenya fulltime later this year, Chloe will move in with Kaari and Zach. They will love and care for her well, and for this I am truly grateful. But it will be hard for me to leave her; in fact, I’m thinking that it will be much harder than leaving my adult kids, who will at least understand where we are going, and why.

Chloe won’t. From past, shorter trips we’ve taken to Kenya, I know she will be devastated and depressed for days, even weeks. And I will miss her, too; more than I can say.

Dogs have always been important in my life. No one loves you like your dog: totally; unconditionally; no strings attached. And God, in His wisdom, has used them to teach me various important spiritual truths over the years (see 200307 Lessons from Max, “Dahlman Diaries”).

What I have learned from sweet Chloe is this: true love is

  • Trusting
  • Expectant
  • Vigilant
  • Steadfast
  • Faithful
  • True
  • No strings attached.

A lot like the way that the Father loves us. Tangible, furry expressions of unconditional love.   Good examples of how He would want us to love others.

Thank you, Chloe, for personifying these few small, but incredibly poignant, truths about dogs…(and ok, perhaps cats, too).

*(“A Child’s Garden of Verses”, Robert Louis Stevenson; a paraphrase)