My Second Meaningful Encounter at One Simple Old Stoplight

Yesterday, I had my second meaningful encounter at one specific stoplight in Seattle. Some of you know about the time I was blessed by a stoplight that skipped me three times and allowed me to talk with an incredibly kind homeless man, reminding me that things we view as inconveniences are sometimes God’s way of telling us to slow down and look around.

Yesterday afternoon, I met a man named Doug at that stoplight. I pulled up and saw a homeless man with a sign that summarized a life-changing episode, saying, “Laid off, now homeless, need work.” I looked around my car to see if I had anything to give him real quick. Nope, nothing. Then I remembered that I had some extra snacks that my boss let me take home from work today.
“Hey buddy,” I called and signalled him over. “How’s it going?”
“Eh I’m alright, how about yourself?” he replied.
“No complaints here. Hey, what’s your name man.”
“Doug.”
“Hi Doug, I’m Christopher. I just wanted to let ya know that I’ll be praying for ya. Also, I work at a cafe and have some snacks from work here. Would you like them?”
“Uh, sure,” he said, seeming kind of startled. He probably didn’t expect to encounter a guy with a little pink cardboard box offering some strange looking South African treats.
As I handed him the treats I told him, “You know, I was almost homeless once. Just last year.”
“Really? What happened?” he asked, obviously surprised.
“Lost my job, just like you. I was just kinda lucky that my parents and roommates could spot me money for my rent for a couple of months. I understand how difficult of a time it can be though, not knowing where your money for life will come from. You’ll be in my prayers man.”
Doug then reached into his pocket and pulled out the white slip that I’ve included a picture of.
“Here, these are thank you notes of sorts.” After he said this he took a bite of the spinach and feta roll I’d given him. “Wow, these are really something! Thanks!”
His face lit up just a bit and suddenly my insignificant gift was actually worth something. I hope I brightened his day at least a little.

After that my light turned green and I had to drive off, but I would like to try to do a little more for Doug. You see, his note shows that what’s happened to Doug could really happen to any of us. He has a degree in CIS and has had work his whole life. Right now he’s just hit a hard time, as many of us will at some point. So I need your help. If you know of any opportunities for work for Doug in CIS somewhere, please let me know. Or if you might know anyone who might know someone, please share this with them. Help me to make Doug’s day even better.
God bless you all.

This Is My Future

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Before I tell you anything more, you need to see this video that my ministry partner took of me in Kibera today. This video exemplifies so much of the joy and fun that I experienced with the youth and community leaders in Kenya today.

Let me tell you, today was my absolute favorite day in Kenya so far. Beyond that, it was one of the most joy-filled days of my life. It began simple enough. This morning I walked down Ngong Road (the street I live on) to join a friend for breakfast. Later I joined a bunch of other missionaries for a prayer luncheon sort of thing at a Chinese restaurant (American guy, Chinese restaurant, African locale. Awesome, right? Lol). Side note real quick: First off, fellowship over food is like my favorite thing about Christian it culture. I’ll always love food and fellowship. Haha. But even better than the food was the opportunity to see the diversity of God’s people serving in Kenya as foreigners. There were missionaries from across the globe: Hong Kong, South Korea, Brazil, England, Ireland, and the US. I love that. Honestly, until reading the book Kingdom without Borders a few years ago, I was of the typical naive understanding that most missionaries are white middle class Americans. But today, I got to see the diversity of God’s missionary body firsthand. I loved that. 

Now comes the part of my day that rocked my world. My ministry partner Jason and I went from the luncheon to a special event being held for youth at a school in the Kibera slum. We went there with our friend Patoh (his name is Patrick, but he goes by Patoh). One more quick side note: (sorry, there is just so much to tell you!) Patoh is one of the most fantastic men I have ever met. I will tell you more about him in a later blog post. But what you need to know right now is that he runs an organization called Spur Afrika. The organization gets its name from its purpose: to spur Afrika (Swahili spelling) into growth by empowering people as entrepreneurs, equipping leaders within communities, instilling moral lessons in children who have grown up in the slum without parents to guide them, teaching children and youth valuable skills and abilities, encouraging a culture of learning, and providing avenues for people to lift themselves out of poverty, among other things.

Anyways, this event with Patoh was the highlight of my day for sure. His organization was facilitating a part of the event in which teams from schools were competing in debates. The hope is to incentivize learning in public speaking, argumentation, and critical thinking. Other things going on in this event included dance offs and just plain fun dancing, soccer games, and volleyball games. During the afternoon, Patoh took me and Jason aside and introduced us to a few members of his team that we hadn’t met yet, Nikoh and Bob.

Talking to Patoh and Bob is part of what got me really excited. As many of you know, I have spent the past 3 years of my life studying Global Development at SPU. Today was my first chance in my life to really apply and utilize what I’ve learned and that excites me so much. From our conversation we decided on some various tasks that Jason and I might be working out alongside them and for them, helping them to increase the influence and growth of Spur Afrika. I told them some strategies that they could potentially use in microfinance (or savings action committees), in grant writing, and overall structure/strategy. The organization is still fairly young, so it seems that I might be able to really contribute a lot! I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am to be working with these guys. This work really will make a difference. With this, my presence here at this moment and my connection and contact with them even when I’m back in the US can help to actually empower people and provide opportunity in the midst of poverty. It is so fantastic to finally have opportunities to truly apply my education in development (before I’ve even graduated)!

In addition to this moment of realizing that I’m really stepping into my career and future in a way, I also got to dance with/in front of Kenyans, as you saw in the video above. This was so fun. Between speeches they would play some hip hop and students would come out and dance, sometimes having dance offs. Jason told Patoh and Bob that I love to dance (which yes, I do). As soon as he told them that, they were ushering me out, “Really? Go! Go dance! Go on!” Haha. So, I went on out and did what I could, in front of maybe two hundred Kenyans. No lie, it’s impossible to feel like an uncoordinated mzungu (white guy) when all these Kenyans are shouting and cheering. Besides that, even if I sucked I could just give the excuse, “Oh, yea, that’s just how everyone dances in my country.” Hahah. It was so funny, fun, and just overall fantastic. After that, some youth came up to me and taught me some Kenyan dancing and then asked me to teach them some mzungu dance moves, so I showed them the Spongebob and the Running Man. White enough, I think. Haha. The day was filled with so much laughter, dancing, and joy. I certainly hope heaven is something like that.

On our way back home through the slum, I couldn’t help but feel the beautiful energy of the life around us. Children dancing and playing in the streets, adults sharing conversation and laughter, food sizzling and bringing wonderful smells, the sun shining bright, and, just, the presence of life. Over the past few days, it has been hard at times as I’ve seen the degree of poverty and heard the stories of death, sickness, and despair facing so many in the slum of Kibera. I’ve wondered at points, “What can I even do in the face of such drastic, widespread, and systematic poverty? I’m here for a little over one month. Is there really anything that I can do for anyone?” Honestly, poverty, true poverty, is a hard thing to encounter. Guilt, despair, and overall sadness can take root if we let it. But today was a reminder that there is life in the midst of the suffering. There is joy in the midst of poverty. And there is light in the midst of darkness. It is not I who will make a difference anyways, it is God and his use of myself and the people here who desire to see real, holistic change take hold in Kibera for the impoverished of Kenya. The people like Patoh, Nikoh, Bob, Edu, and others will be the agents of change. And they will see a better Kibera. I am confident of it.

Today was beautiful. I cannot exaggerate how wonderful it was. This is my future. In days to come, both far and near, I will experience and share the love of Christ and many joys, sorrows, adventures, struggles, and more with the people of Africa. God will be with me through it all and I look forward to my future in this land. I wish I could share each moment I’ve experienced with all of you. Hopefully this blog does just that, at least to some extent.

I’m In Africa!

Wow. I’m actually here. I keep re-realizing that I’m finally in Africa. For the first time in five years I’m actually back in the place that I feel God ultimately calling me to in my career. Every time that I re-realize that I’m really in Africa, that I’m really here on this adventure, I honestly can’t help but get the biggest smile. I love it. It just feels me with the greatest joy. I love Africa and I seriously can’t wait to begin my career here whenever God allows that.

So, right now I’ll tell you a bit about the start to my time here in Nairobi. Working with Africa Inland Mission, I’m with a pretty diverse group of people from all over the world. It’s been pretty neat interacting and talking to people from Canada, the UK, Germany, and other parts of the US here in Kenya. Right now I’m at a guest house going through orientation and training in Nairobi before going to our ministry location elsewhere in the city.

Some things about my experience in this temporary living situation:
I have an awesome British roommate who is thoroughly entertaining. His name is James King. He told me this morning that he has the most biblical name. There is the book of James, the books of First and Second Kings, and the King James Version of the Bible. I must say, he does have a good case made. Hahah. In conversation today and last night I have learned the following phrases from him (and more):
The Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys – The French. This one made me laugh soooo hard. “We whipped the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys in the Battle of Agincourt.”
Risk it for a chocolate biscuit – If you wanna risk something for a big possible gain. “Yea, the bloke decided to shoot on goal instead of pass to a teammate on his free kick. I guess he wanted to risk it for a chocolate biscuit.”
Lovely jubbly – You might use this expression about a drink or food that you really enjoyed. “That dinner was just lovely jubbly.”
I could murder that – If you really ‘fancy’ something. “Oh I could murder that pint of ale. It was so good.”
Yea, this guy is pretty great. Haha. He’s going up to serve in the north of the country though, so I won’t be with him after today. But my time with him has been fun.

I’m also rooming with my ministry partner Jason Lambert (from my mom’s land down south, Georgia). I think we’re going to get along really well. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems we have some really complementary strengths and characters. We move into our place tomorrow. We’re super excited to just start living life alongside the guys we’ll be ministering to. Jason’s interested in working in business with a positive social impact, so it’s been cool hearing some of his hopes for that since it’s a common interest of ours.

During our training, the missionary’s kids were out in the backyard playing. He mentioned that they were chameleon hunting. As soon as he said that, I wanted to go out and chameleon hunt with them! Who wants to study cultural sensitivity when you can be chameleon hunting with a 6 and 8 year old!? Lol. What’s funny here is apparently Kenyans are like deathly afraid of chameleons. They look at PJ (the missionary) like he’s crazy for letting his kids play with chameleons. Apparently there are some beliefs that they’re incredibly venomous. There is also a proverb/belief type thing that once one bites your hair it will never let go. Was pretty funny to me. I’m sure we have pretty funny fears in the U.S. too though that foreigners don’t understand. Who knows what they are though. Lol.

I had tea today with a German woman ministering in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (where I’d like to work in my future). The first awesome thing for you to note in that sentence is the tea part. We have a morning and an afternoon tea every day here. IT’S AWESOME! I feel like I’m in Hobbiton having first and second breakfastes. Pippin and Merry would love it here. (I dearly hope you understand my Lord of the Rings references…Lol) But besides that, I was able to speak a little bit with her about the DRC. I was able to actually learn from someone who has seen the damage done by rebels and the LRA firsthand and who has seen things improve in some ways from previous points. I was also able to discuss some development things I’ve studied and hear what she sees a need for in the society and what the failings in the area have been. Toni (the German) has been in the DRC for over 30 years. She was there when it was still Zaire. This time was awesome. Toni was awesome. God is awesome.

Ultimately today, in the words from LEGO Movie, everything is awesome. I’m so grateful that God has brought me here in this moment and that he used you people to supply my every need in preparation for this trip. Life is good and, I must say, I am incredibly happy. This is most definitely where I am supposed to be right now.