In my post yesterday, I shared what I’ve been learning during our time in Kenya. Today, I’d love to share more details about what life has looked like practically over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, Casey became sick on Sunday, October 8. She remained sick all week and we finally took her to the doctor on Thursday, the 12th. There wasn’t a test to confirm, but we think that Casey had the flu for all of that week. She was tested for malaria, and thankfully it was negative. Still, she felt terrible each day and was forced to simply rest in bed. When she finally felt better that Saturday, we went on our first date night to 360 Degrees Pizza at one of the local malls. This was our first time driving at night, so we felt really accomplished!
That same week, I was able to attend a pre-launch at a brand new CARE for AIDS center: Langata. We do a pre-launch to gauge how the staff is doing with recruiting clients. 80 clients are in each program so the pre-launch allows us to see which clients are committed before actually starting the program about a month later. Most of the time, pre-launches have around 40 people or so. At Langata, 77 clients showed up for the pre-launch. Bosco, our regional coordinator for Langata’s region, said he did not know how to describe the event. He kept on saying, “This feels more like a launch!” Praise God for what he is doing in Langata. Will you pray with me for David and Mercy, the two staff at Langata center, as they kickoff the program on November 7?
Last week was our first “somewhat normal” week since arriving in Kenya. We went to a launch at the Kariobangi center on Tuesday. We are excited to watch this center because in our short time here, we have already noticed the vast difference between the launches and the graduations that happen 9 months later. The feel in the room is completely different. Launches have very little emotion because the clients have only been around the staff a few times, so they are still trying to figure out what CARE for AIDS is all about and if they can trust us. Graduations are full of excitement, dancing, and celebration because of the life transformation that has occurred over the program’s 9 months. Here's a little video of our drive into the Kariobangi community:
On Wednesday, Casey and I spent time at two centers: Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mathare. Mukuru was having a 6-month follow-up; clients who graduated 6 months ago came in to have a time of encouragement, assessment on how their lives are going, and fellowship around some food. Mathare is currently recruiting their second class of clients. Their first class graduated a couple months ago. Jude is the spiritual counselor and Joan is the health counselor at Mathare. Because there are no current clients, we were able to sit down with Jude and Joan and spend time learning about their families, passions, and ministries. This was such a worshipful 45 minutes because we were able to encourage each other with Scripture, talk about life, and laugh together.
On Thursday, Casey and I attended a seminar at Rongai center. Josephine was the facilitator and she taught on business creativity. We have learned that in Kenya, there is very little creativity in starting or running a business. People just want to find something that works OK without having to employ creativity. Josephine had a lively, energetic, and outgoing personality. She graduated from the CARE for AIDS program 18 months ago and was able to encourage all of the clients towards being creative when they run their business.
At the beginning of the seminar, 14 men and women got up in front of the whole group and shared some of their life stories. The first woman to share, Martha, had never before stood in front of a group of any size and talked about living with HIV/AIDS. She was speaking in Swahili and there was a laugh from the crowd. Of course, we did not really get the joke, but the reason everyone giggled was because Martha said, “AIDS, I have it.” It was incredible to watch her display such strength and courage to disclose her status. She is currently caring for 7 of her grandchildren.
The two men that led us in worship that morning were named Cosmas and Oscar. They led us in a number of songs as we worshiped the Lord. Then, during the time for individual stories, both got up. Cosmas has known about his status for a couple of years, and as a result, he has experienced isolation. Talking about the CARE for AIDS program, he said, “I do not feel alone. I feel part of a family here.” Oscar stood up and shared how taking his medication has radically change his life. He noted that his friends are saying that he is now going out and preaching the good news of the gospel. Casey and I were blessed to watch both of these men lead us in worship and share about the work being done in their lives by God.
Outside of work, we are slowly getting acclimated to life in Nairobi. I found a group of men that play basketball every Tuesday night at a school about 15 minutes from our house, so I did that for the first time last week. Nairobi has an elevation of almost 6,000 feet, which makes it a little harder to breathe. Needless to say, playing basketball for the first time in months was quite a good workout. On Sunday, we met some new friends (Neil and Sarah) from Texas and went to a Harvest Festival. They served hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, and more. There were tons of vendors selling different types of goods and lots of musical and dancing performances.
We are still visiting different churches but hope to solidify our new church family quite soon. We are realizing the importance of the community in the local church. It has been hard figuring out how to make new friendships that are meaningful and figuring out what community looks like in terms of having encouragement towards growing in godliness and accountability in turning from sin.
We love and miss our family, friends and community back in the US. Please reach out any time! It is not easy being away from everything we have ever known so we would love to hear from you about your lives and how things are going. It is always refreshing to hear from you.
p.s. I just got back on Instagram to share more "real life" or "behind the scenes" photos and stories of our day-to-day here in Nairobi, feel free to follow along @aarondmarkham