Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gima lich duogo!

Man, I hate starting blogs. I never know where to begin and where I land is always way off topic. I read back over my posts and I feel like they are by necessity, awkward, and out-of-place. I do realize many people have communicated to me that they enjoy reading them, but honestly I do not attribute that to my method of writing or even to the content. Looking out onto the streets of Sondu, the town where the clinic is located, I see quite an assortment of people pass by. People wearing purple and pink sweater vests overlapping torn sweats, pastel-green golf shirts tucked into jean shorts while sporting shoes made from used tires, and little girls playing in the dirt with stained dresses that were originally bought for a child to attend a wedding. All of it is awkward, wildly out-of-place, and by necessity, but it is excusable because, put plainly, this is Africa. That is how I feel about my blog. When I begin, I feel I am writing out of necessity, they read awkwardly, and the ending is wildly out-of-place from the start. This one, my friends, will undoubtedly follow suit. But it is ok because I am in Africa.

On that note, I would like to call to memory your first year of college, specifically English 101. The treachery. Unlike some I failed to defeat the beast on my first bout and had to rest and recover over the summer. I went for round two the following semester where I slew the raging beast, rescued the damsel in distress, in my case a fair-skinned maiden who goes by C+, and continued on my college epic. You see I was not prepared the first time. I had been trained enough to shield the fiery breath by using spell/grammar check, and use conniving eloquence to sword dance long enough to suspend the pending doom, but I could not make the death blow. I could not compose a thesis statement. Ideas floated around the on the page while paragraphs were structured but the content was fickle. I detested funneling all my thoughts and ideas into two or three sentences. It felt wrong and still does, but, as I learned, it was and is completely necessary to continue on.

Here again I find myself in the same crisis. I need a thesis. But this time it is not for a silly paper and regardless if I do the detestable or not, the epic will continue. Simply put, I must settle on a living thesis that will focus the rest of my story. My life. As much as I detest settling on three sentences or so in a lousy research paper, the feeling is exponentially greater when doing so for my life. But when I think about the alternative, I am even more terrified. That my story would lack driving force and be governed by whims and chances. Then credits. The conclusion will not being a conclusion at all but an unexpected, confusing, awkward stop where the saddest part is not that it is finished but that nothing truly happened.


That must be what will happen right? How can a story with zero drive end up at a destination? How can there be an intended ending without a defined beginning? Who would want to read a story that lacked a purpose? Further than that, who would want to author such a thing?!

Not I.

And so the detestable must be done.

As I write this post in a house dimly lit with a kerosene lamp, plagued with shadows, I know it must be done. As I read the Book I am tortured with the imagery of a tired runner, weak, and beaten but fighting with every bit of energy left to reach the end. Why does he fight so hard? Where is he going? The horror, it must be done. When I lie in my bed and pray to the Source of wisdom He grasps me and reminds me what wisdom is. Again, it must be done. I will no longer be subject to whim and chance and I most definitely will not haphazardly apply a sacred sentence to an accidental landing. We all need specific purpose and direction if we want a coherent conclusion. I will begin to find mine by subjecting the detestable to the Word, prayer, and guidance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Was it four weeks ago that I described a place of dirt, mountains, truckers, and children? Time has gotten the better of me, but I believe it was. It was. I miss the laughter and proud smiles of the aunties; the smelly food and little fingers curled around mine. O, the heavy love I carry for them. It is daily hoisted onto my shoulders by remembrance. It presses down on me every time I hear the chorus of high-pitched questions in the streets:

“How are you!?”

“Mzungu! How are you?”

I turn to see smaller children shying behind others, smiling next to the pile of trash littered on the side of the street. It is just there and I can’t rid myself of it. The weight, oh, the weight.

I am no longer surrounded by dirt, truckers, or orphaned children, but I am still surrounded by mountains. I now stare from my new home, over the rocky path, to the mountains that stare back, perfectly adjacent to Lake Victoria. The sun spreads orange on the horizon as it sinks into the water. Welcome to Kandaria.

I would love to paint in your mind a perfect picture of Kandaria but I am not an artist; I am certainly not masterful enough with this brush. If I attempted the endeavor, my words would turn a perfectly good canvas into a children’s coloring book. My hills would be perfectly smooth lines filled in green below and blue above, where a cotton cloud would squiggle next to a yellow, circular sun. The chickens would smile and the people would smile back. It would lack dimensions, shadows, and true emotion. It would be a cheap charade. And if you had any true experience, any masterpiece to compare, you would see the lack of coordination in my hand. So instead, I am going to simply tell you a story. I am going to share with you a recent experience. I am simply going to trace and pray that I am tracing a masterpiece.

What is worship? I think worship is following Jesus. Too general for you? Too obvious? It seemed that way for me and still does at times. But that is what this story has transformed into. Worship. What you worship will stop you from following Jesus. It will take your life because you will gladly give your life to it. These thoughts were replaying in my head as I bounced up and down, left and right, pulling against the seat belt that, every so often, would tighten right underneath my ribs. We were bouncing through the Kandarian hills in a Land Cruiser we call The Beast. Myself, David (the man, no, friend, who I am living with), and six strangers in the back, one of which was not moving anymore, except to the bumps. Nor was he breathing. It was early and it was grave. I do not know which of the two was the cause, but I was at a loss for words. I could only breathe and think.

How did I wake up to this?
What is going on?

Is this happening?

We are going to run out of gas, I know it. We are going to run out of gas driving to the mortuary.

The silence was broken by clanging of metal against metal and a chorus in a foreign language. The five strangers were family; the one lifted into the back of The Beast that morning was the sixty-something father, brother, and uncle to the rest. They were singing. No, they were worshipping as we drove over the unpaved roads, avoiding ditches and potholes. They had no idea it was killing me. The song mixed with the repetitive metal clang reminded me of a montage at the end of a movie, where you watch multiple scenes at once in their own little squares. And in this movie, people were dying in those squares. Others were crying. In the last square I was sitting in a passenger seat, still bouncing, confused. I would have never picked this soundtrack. The repetitive clang made me flinch more than the rocks that jutted into the tires. If I was forced to pick a song for that moment, if I was completely true to the gravity, no worship song ever played on my iPod, iTunes, cd player in the car, or guitar would have amounted. I do not know what that means but it was what I was thinking.

There was gladness mixed with grief. Gladness in celebrating their relative coming into Polo (Heaven) and meeting Him for the first time. Face to face. There was grief. That was plain in the way they sang and wholly evident in the repetitive metal clash, and even more apparent by the tears swelling in the men’s eyes. They had a song for this moment. I did not. What is worship now? Obviously it was more than the song or the terrible instrument. It must, then, be them just singing to God, at that moment. Right then. That was how they were following Jesus. It has to be. Right?

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

That is not just a saying when your flying 100kph down an African rode with a mourning family and a corpse in the back. It is offensive. If they were following Jesus right then, that was the most heart-wrenching worship I had ever experienced. That was Job in real life. But if that was just part of the culture or tradition, rapid fire songs to relieve despair and grief, stopping short of truly honoring the real God; what would it look like if I turned around and said, “Stop that. Let the dead bury the dead. Focus on Jesus and what He has done for you, what He is doing for you.”? What if I called them dead, in that moment? What if.

But then it struck me. The obvious hit me square and knocked the breath out of me. That verse was not for them. It was completely for me. What if that was my father in the back? Or worse, what if that was my younger sister in the back? I felt sick to my stomach. It felt so real. I knew it was not my sister back there, but at the same time I did not want to turn around and look. I did not want to see that pain, and I certainly did not want to turn around to see that same pain singing to God. Hearing it was enough to tear into my gut. They were worshipping! That verse was for me. That verse hurt. What a terrible instrument! I know if I ever am forced to carry a loved one unexpectedly to the mortuary, as I bounce over those unpaved roads, I will want a Reece moment. I will want a second to pity myself. I will want God pause for a moment and focus on me. I might not voice it, but I knew it to be true. Oh God, am I really worshipping you?

That is all I could think about. I wanted that possibility out of my head, but the singing persisted and the terrible instrument would not end.

I came to Africa! I am living among the impoverished day to day! I have seen it! I am doing it! This is ridiculous! This has got be fruits of the life of a disciple! This has got to be enough!

What if it is not though? What if it is not enough? What if I am not giving everything? Could I go further? I think I could. I think I could give more, and if I can give more, I must give more. Everything. Everything must go to Christ. All those really strict parts, those impossible parts, must become evident. I must take all my thoughts and capture them for His control. I must work my mind to know His Word so that I can yield it like a weapon. I must not forsake any part. I must do this so that I do not crumble when the torrent comes. I must give up on attempting to add to the foundation. He is taking everything, in every moment, and it is more difficult than I ever imagined. I am going to lose myself in it, but it will be worship. It will be obedience. It will be following. And I will not be among the dead.

So that is where I leave you. There truly is no ending. I was sickened by Christ’s words when they became more than philosophy, as so many have been. I officially had the intellectualism slapped out of me by realism. Those words are life and I know that. They are joy as I have been so adamantly proclaiming. They take away any excuse, any plea, any justification, and leave us with an offer to worship Him or something else. I am not choosing something else. I am going to sing. I am going to dance. I am going to labor. And just as that mourning family did, I am going to worship!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


“What is the sign of a friend? Is it that he tells you his secret sorrows? No, it is that he tells you his secret joys.” -Oswald Chambers

These words have been repeating in my head ever since I read them June 3rd. At the time, I was sitting in a messy three-row seat with the hum of enormous engines allowing me to hang miles above the earth. I was on a journey to the other side of the world and I had no idea what was over the horizon I could see so clearly. I mind was going wild, I mean, wouldn’t yours? There were thoughts of seeing the most beautiful parts of God’s creation and worshipping Him for it, of dancing with the Masai on the barren ground, of shouting at the top of my lungs ALL of Psalm 96, which has been so implanted in my mind, and thoughts of watching people finally find the One who created the mysteries they had been trying to answer since the beginning of time. There were also other thoughts. Thoughts I had been fighting so hard to purge from my mind. Selfish thoughts. Thoughts of seeing the most beautiful parts of Kenya and capturing them for all of Facebook to see. Thoughts of adventures, of stories to tell, of bragging opportunities, merits of my masculinity. And of course, as with all parts of life, there were thoughts of a girl, which, honestly, I never know which category to place and still do not. So I was praying. I was praying pretty hard. I remember asking, “What are you saying? My mind is utterly killing me; it is all over the place. Can you speak to me over these incredibly annoying engines? I love you. Bring on whatever is in store, I do know I am ready to follow and follow gladly! Your will be done.” Then my eyes got heavy and I fell asleep to the heavy humming.

It has been over one month now and a lifetime worth of events flew by. I wrote a journal entry recording the events of just the first two weeks and it took a full two pages, which if you know anything of my handwriting is quite a feat. I want to share to enlighten you. Not necessarily with the recent events of my life, but to my intimate joy. Here is a tid-bit from that entry on fast-forward:

I arrived in Kenya, drove recklessly over the scariest roads in the world at night, hiked to Lake Naivasha with Strong Tower orphanage, visited the children of Rhema orphanage, bought a cow, slaughtered a goat, got sick, sneezed, visited Kwambekenya, played with a sea of children during their afternoon break, lodged at Thompson Fall’s (which I hear a heck of a place to visit but I wouldn’t know because I spent the day sleeping in my room trying to recover from the illness that befail me), painted Rehema orphanage, aided in making the worst representation of the Prodigal Son ever, limboed, drove far into the bush of Kenya, stared in awe at a half-rainbow stopping just before the peak of Mt. Kenya, met Benson (the child my mom sponsors), almost was stranded by my forgetful group and ran like the wind, stopped to watch elephants pass, prayed for a woman suffering from melanoma with all my might, slept under the Milky Way, woke up soaked in dew, visited homes of the Masai, ducked my head and toured the 8ft x 8ft house of six people, watched the horizon become hazy then disappear, ran like the dickens from the rain chasing my shirt-tail, looked up to see the creation so obviously made by the Creator, took a shower in the rain, watched the U.S. tie England in a small Kenyan house, cheered like crazy, slept, woke, coughed, visited HOREC orphanage, let children climb all over me, dropped an HIV-positive child on his head, felt my stomach turn as he cried, slept, woke up the next morning with my bladder ready to explode, fixed the problem, played catch with some of the nursery kids still in HOREC, hit one of said kids in the face, made another orphan cry, left HOREC, returned to Nairobi-area, visited the slums, felt sick inside, watched my team leave, watched some of my closest friends in the world leave, watched my sister whom I love so much leave, walked inside, read her note, and failed at holding back tears.

My joy lies in those poorly penned lines and that quote was still echoing inside my head, bouncing from ear to ear.

Then I spent time in Beat the Drum orphanage learning to live life like a child, realizing that doing this is truly the next stage of growing up. I have experienced the back-breaking burden of need and realized that eating a can of spinach or ripping off your shirt to reveal Superman strength wouldn’t cut it. Only strength drawn from hope could actually give you the means to stand up and continue on. But, now, if you have been following along, you already know all of that. Yet, you still do not know my joy.

My joy is not seeing the beauty of the Creator’s magnificent creation or singing with all my lungs while dancing until I sweat. My joy is not laughing until my stomach hurts because the children cannot blow bubbles or going through the aunties prized picture albums. My joy is not even sharing these gifts of God with you and bringing you along from thousands of miles away. If you thought that my joy was in these things you were wildly off mark. If you thought my joy even rested in the tears that fail from my sister’s beautiful letter, you were terribly mistaken.

These things would be prized with or without the name of Christ. People could look to many of those events and say, “That stuff sounds pretty amazing. I would want that stuff with or without Christ. I want to run from rain, shower in it, and then watch the different colors that are displayed in the skies. I want that close of a relationship with my siblings. Christ may or may not be real or the son of God, but those experiences are commendable and relationships are real. I want them.” If that is where you are I have done you a terrible injustice. I have invited you into my house decorated with fine linen, gold chalices, and wonderful paintings while neglecting to show you what was supporting the house. The Foundation.

You see these events are so close to my joy that they could be easily seen as something to be prized. I, at times, undercut myself from what is to be sought after with the most vigor because the water that gives me strength to continue taste so wonderful. And my worst fear is that I do the same for you, that I paint you a picture of a picture; no matter how good it looks.

Here is my joy. Here is the most intimate thing I can share with you.

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, shout , O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again feel evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you in gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. I will gather those who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.”

This relationship is my joy and it is my joy to watch others be taken by it...To be sung over my Jesus. To live without evil, fear, and treachery. To be rejoiced over with gladness. To mourn no longer. To be in the Kings midst.

So I do believe it is true that sharing your joy is the most intimate thing you can do with others. What would not and could not leave my mind seemed to have weight. If the opposite was true then the closer I became with God the more sorrows He would share with me and I would have no reason to rejoice. Truly, I would be crushed. But the complete opposite happens. As He infiltrates your soul and your intimacy grows, and your desires merge in an eternal relationship. Instead of being crushed, I am saved and quieted by his love.

So my joy is to become more overwhelmed by Him. It is to be a part of His redemption of this world. It is to show you the Foundation and then the tapestries. And to the rest, I pray my joy is unrecognizable. I pray it is to live a pitiful life because my whole being is focused on the unattainable.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Obvious.

So here I am again. It has been about one week since my last blog and I truly contemplated copying all of that Barenaked Ladies song for a cheesy laugh. But don't worry, I'll spare you.

Well, my hair is a little longer. My unshaven mustache is a little creepier. And when I wake in the mornings, it still feels like I am caught in a dream. I am in Kenya. I am surrounded by children who smile with dirty teeth, mountains and sky that force me to gaze with a dropped jaw, and need. A lot of need.

Honestly, I don't want to write about all the need I am experiencing here but if I didn't, well, I wouldn't be writing honestly. I fought my own will to write about this need. I didn't want to follow up "living joyfully simple" with the "brutal need" in this land. In fact, I have written two other blogs attempting to avoid this subject altogether. But I want to be fully honest with you. I want you to know my thoughts, emotions, and experiences. That is why I started this whole blog. So this entry is going to be brutal and I pray that the brutality of what I am experiencing here comes out on your side with humility and love.

The need is just so obvious and evident here. One of my friends, who has spent more time in Kenya than I, wrote in her blog that if she grew up in Africa she probably wouldn't be able to believe in the Bible. At least in the goodness of the Bible and the hope we have to hold onto. Now living here for a month, that perspective becomes all the more clear. It almost seems like everything is a waste. It almost seems like it is just living to die. Here is an average, dreary day in my current home:

I step out of my bedroom in the morning to children eating porridge and sipping chai, while they swallow their ARV pills. I then get into the van that takes twenty children to school and pass teenage boys already high on glue at 6:30 AM. High on glue because they don't have food and it helps satiate the hunger. And because, honestly, what other escape could they possibly conceive of? I then arrive back to the orphanage to watch Pastor John try to budget the cost of feeding all twenty children, his wife, nephew, and three aunties, and I listen to the strong man sigh. I know why he is sighing. Pastor John has gone three months without pay and his own children are constantly under pressure of being thrown out of school because of unpaid school fees. On top of that his van breaks down at least twice a day and the water hasn't made it through the pipes to the orphanage since April because of the government's reckless tree-planting project destroying more and more of his pipes each day. All the while non-profit, Christian organizations promise help but can't deliver because of heated disagreements and tifs in ownership over "Beat the Drum Corporation". The burden he carries would drop me to my knees and crush my back. It seems hopeless.

As I walk outside the aunties are slaving away carrying 30 liter gas cans of water on their back, while straining their neck with the support rope that distributes part of the weight to their neck and head. This is the water that should not have to be carried. This is also the water that has given two of our children giardia. The drops of sweat bead down their forehead as they pass by the latrine that is slowly becoming a health hazard. The smell from the sewage backing up should already have been cemented over but hasn't do to the low funds. All the while I can walk to town and back and pass a dozen churches that at first glance would be mistaken to be decaying shacks. This is where people who care more for the offering than the salvation they neglect scream at the needy women on Sunday mornings. It sickens my stomach.

I want to vomit.

There are too many questions and too little answers as always.

Joyfully simple seems dead when the children are at school.

It is devotion to hold onto the crumbs of hope.

But it is worth it.

The need is great but the hope is greater. The crumbs of hope that I understand from feasting in the Word allow me to live here in love. It is a gift that I am incredibly thankful for want more of. This kind of love moves you to be one of the few laborers in a huge harvest. This type of love is grounded and rooted and almost seems masochistic. This type of love wants to take on the burdens of the slums, addictions of impoverished teenagers, corruption within the government, waterless orphanages, infected children, etc because it knows that the burden is light. This type of love has a heavy heart. And this type of love has hope.

This love is fully given. It is more than an idealistic non-profit or an attention seeking Angelina Jolie. It doesn't move but gives strength to endure. Endure to move in the so evident brutal need, making hope more obvious than the depravity of this wretched world.

The hope is the truth. The truth is the burden is light with Jesus, and the yoke is easy. He is the source of this love and the gift-giver. This is what he is showing me and teaching me as a spectator, a taster of these burdens. And all I know is I need more of Him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finally There (or should I say here).

Finally here. The air is still breathable and the people still laugh. Maai Mahiu is a town full of truckers, dirt, mountains, trash, and children. Amazing children. And that is how I want to start my first blog. With children. Children who live in a land far away from you and are joyfully simple.

There are four houses here at Beat the Drum orphanage where I have been living now for four days. Beat the Drum is in the midst of the Great Rift Valley and going purely by scenery, it is paradise. Cattle walk in the fields grazing, people ride bikes on the side of the road dodging tree limbs, and the sun disappears in a orangey haze every night behind a mountain of which I still can't figure out the name. And that is where the door of Nyumba Mbili (House Two) opens. Outlooking the most beautiful sunset that I truly might ever see. But all of this, all these sights, they do not compare to what they hold. They hold twenty children in four houses and these children are slowly changing my life.

In my house there are five children and one auntie, Auntie Lucy. There is Baraka, Emmanuel (who we call Emon), Simon (who is called Karioki), and Eric. Baraka is twelve years-old, in Class 3, and he is the quiet one. I call him Obama from time to time and it makes him smile and laugh. Emon is seven years-old, in his last year of Nursery, and he smiles like a hockey player. He has yet to master the art of blowing bubbles, I believe his technique is the harder I blow the more bubbles I will is pretty ineffective. Then there is Karioki who is six years-old and is also in Nursery. Karioki (pronounced Karaoke like the game) is a name given in Kenya to remember an earlier sibling who has died. He loves to laugh and, unlike Emon, is a pro and bubble blowing. Lastly we have Eric. He is fourteen years-old, in Class 4, and the best way to describe him is just random. Kind of a sad adjective that doesn't do justice but if you met him I bet you would say the same. Auntie Lucy is a servant to the core. I think all the aunties here are, but I get the most time with her. She makes my bed, washes my clothes, heats my bucket bathes, and pretty much everything else. I'm pretty sure I am just another nine year-old in her book. I love it though. And that is kind of what I want to tell you about in this post. It is what God is teaching me through these joyfully simple wtoto. (To clarify before I go on, I make my bed each morning but I still don't meet her standards so she remakes. She is excellent too, the top of the sheets folded back, perfectly perpendicular to the bed, tucked in on every side even with the mosquito net as an obstacle. I'm going to try to get it down pat but I am not sure if I can make it a masterpiece as she does.)

I think if these kids were allowed to skip school they would spend every second of each day holding hands, having tickle wars, and playing with their bucket lids as they try to roll around the orphanage with bent wire. Left... then right... then up... then down...They are simply happy. And I am plain jealous. I watch them laughing and loving the simple and then realize I am cynically thinking they know nothing else. They wouldn't be this happy if they knew what I did. They do not know how impoverished they are. They do not know they have HIV/AIDS. They do not know what its like to live a normal life. A "normal" life. Wow. Who am I to say what a normal life is? How prideful am I?

Are we not suppose to live like this?

Could this be what humility looks like?

The Word saves me. It steals me from paralytic thought.

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

I don't have this verse memorized. I knew Jesus said we were suppose to be like children. But He could not have stolen me from my thoughts with any more specific words. We are suppose to humble ourselves like these children. They pray the same prayer everyday; when they wake up, before they eat breakfast, when they get back from school, before dinner, and then as they go to sleep, so much I almost have it memorized...and it is in Kiswahili. But, oh do they mean it each time! They cry when they are hurt, they eat until they are full, they play until they sweat, and they love. Their hearts are bigger than mine. I am jealous. It is my prayer and it is the prayer I will ask you to pray for me and possibly even yourselves.

"Humble me, Jesus. Humble me to be like one of these kids. They have nothing. They know nothing. They completely lack dignity and they are dirty and sick. Humble me like that."

Gosh if we could be as children again. The world would be enormous but it would be our playground. Jesus would not be a chore. He would be so evident we would make telephones out of string and cans to pray. We would not care about impressing him, at least as we do now, we wouldn't know what dignity was. All we would care about was loving Him and Him loving us and what the next game would be when we played. When we were hurt we would cry. When we were happy we would sing. And when we wanted to dance, well of course, we would dance. When we listened and read Bible stories they would be more real then gravity. This kind of world should be more real than gravity.

So this is this a little excerpt from my life. I am just a dude that loves Jesus, trying to follow Him. I am blessed. I am prideful. I am jealous of these children. They are joyfully simple.