Wednesday, May 14, 2014

African Stories

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been so long since I've posted! Life has been super busy with flights, a wedding and just experiencing Africa! I attended my baby sister Hannah's wedding last month which was amazing and I'm so thankful I got to be apart of it! Congratulations Jake and Hannah! I'm thankful to have you two in my life! You're a beautiful couple and I can't wait to see all that you two will accomplish together!

So let me share with you what I've been up to here in Africa. I've been here for about five weeks now. It's hard sometimes to process the things I've seen here, but I'm going to try my best to share with you all in short stories and answer a few questions I've been asked since I've been here.

The first thing that happened when I came here is people stare at me like I'm a circus freak because I'm white AND I have tattoos. They are fascinated by white people, because well…there are not really many here. And tattoos in this culture basically are seen only on people who use drugs and are possessed by demons. (Yes I do have to cover up all my tattoos and take the rings in my nose out during ministry) For the people you have seen them outside of ministry they do take he the time though to understand why I have them.

The little kids and teenagers yell "Mzungu"  (which means white person) when they see me they also all say "How are you?!". It almost sounds like a song when they say it, because they say it over and over again and they have an accent, so it goes, "How are you?!" "I am fine" "How are you?!" It's really cute when I'm on a motorbike into town and I hear the little kids squeaky voices screaming this as they are waving their hand as fast as they can out of excitement. 

The hospitality here is like nothing I've ever experienced. At the last village in Kisimu I stayed in, I woke up to the the hosts washing mud off my shoes from the rainstorm myself and my team had walked through the night before!  It was actually painful how hospitable the people have been here.

I've never been so thankful for a porcelain toilet and indoor pumping. Most places where I've been use a squatty-pottie, which is pretty much a mud hut with a hole in the ground. You squat over it and try to aim the best you can into this little hole. Thankfully we've had really nice squatty-potties because some of the ones I've been in smell so bad, the ammonia burns your nose and there are maggots squirming around in the hole below you. 

Where we have been staying is 5 degrees below the equator. So it's hot and humid all the time, most of the day I'm dripping with sweat. (Mom you won't believe it but I've been showering almost everyday since I've been here!) It is rainy season though so a couple days during the week it will rain really hard during the night.

I think I've talked about spiritual climates before in past posts but the spiritual climate is overwhelming. I've been staying in a town called Mbita the last couple weeks and this place is covered with sexual immorality, fear, the spirit of religion and the spirit of poverty. The second I got off the ferry I felt so heavy, and I felt all these things weigh on me immediately. I cried myself to sleep almost every night the first week of my stay in this town. 

There are little green geckos everywhere! I mean everywhere! Behind every picture frame, the blinds, beds, doors and tables. I saw a little Black Mamba snake my first night in Mbita. I've seen a baboon (yes the ones with the blue butts). I've seen wild zebras and huge fish hawks. I saw two hippos the other day in Lake Victoria. There are a bunch of flies, spiders, millipedes, ants, huge moths, butterflies and a hundred other bugs I've never seen before. There are hundreds of species of beautiful, colorful birds here. I've seen many HUGE monitor lizards. And at the base I've been staying at there are cute monkeys playing in the trees.

Myself and the rest of the girls on the team spoke to some of the teenage girls in the village in Kisimu about sex and Gods design for it and showed them how to use feminine toiletries. It's unbelievable but many girls miss a whole week of school or more because they don't have tampons or pads. Which leads to not passing into the next grade because they missed so much school over the year. So often this is a subject that families don't talk about so girls end up selling their bodies to get money so they can buy pads. AIDS and HIV run ramped here and many girls get pregnant at a young age and then are forced by the community to marry the boy or man who is the father. Many men in the community have multiple wives because of this. We worked alongside with a ministry/school from Nairobi called SheepCare that educates girls about sex and donates a years worth of pads for the girls.

Most of the people here where I am staying live in extreme poverty and 45% of the population in Mbita carry HIV/AIDS. Most homes are built of dried mud and are about 11ft. x 7ft. with a tin roof thrown over the top. These homes usually house 4-9 people. Everyone wears donated clothes from first world nations. A meal and clean water isn't always promised. In fact most people are sick because of the dirty water or they have contracted the HIV virus. Most people I have met are widowed or are orphans because people here just die from curable sicknesses. That's one thing I'm still battling through is the thought of these people are dying because of a common cold or diarrhea. These things we pay maybe $7  for the cure at a drugstore in America!   

I've seen lots of great things here in Kenya and I've seen very, very hard life changing sad realities. 
In all of these hardships that I've seen I've noticed one thing in almost every person. That they still believe there is a God and He is real and that He very is good. It's so captivating to me that these people still carry joy no matter what they've been through. Everyone I've met here has a story and many, many hardships. BUT they still thank God and praise Him when physically they have nothing. They are still full of joy! And they still hold on to the promises that God has for them, weather they receive those promises in this life or the next.

Until next time and I will try to post sooner that this last time,

Gracie xo

"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." -Psalm 16:7-11

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