Two days after I got to Cape Town, I lost my phone to the ocean while leaning over the railing of a ferry to get some GoPro footage. All I wanted was to absorb the political history of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner, in iPhone-owning peace. That dream was short-lived. Coincidentally, “Baba Yetu,” which is the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili, was playing on my iPhone as it floated to the murky depths of the Atlantic.
"Dial 3 for rescue-related emergencies, such as fire or ocean rescues."
"You've reached Vodacom Emergency Services. This is Janice. What can I help you with?"
"HI! I'm currently lost and stuck up the side of Table Mountain and I don't know my way up or how to get down and I think I need help."
"Ma'am, I can't understand you. Can you speak properly please."
Just repeat yourself in a British accent. She'll get it. "I am currently lost and stuck up the side of Table Mountain and I don't know my way up or how to get down and I think I need help. Can you help me?"
"And what do you want me to do?"
"Well, you're emergency services right?!"
"Ma'am, whose number is this?"
"THIS IS MY CELL PHONE I AM CURRENTLY STUCK ON A MOUNTAIN, CAN YOU PLEASE GET HELP???"
"I'm blocking it."
Current setting: Nairobi Java House landside at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Where are the waiters? Taking shelter for six hours before checking in for a flight in which I will get to know five different airports in four different African countries, flying sky high for both the sunrise and the sunset. Welcome to my comfort zone.
This is a continuation of my last post, which you can read here!
As you read in my last post, there is a particular life maxim that I’ve kept close to heart as the seasons of life have continually shifted.
Crying is the first sign of life, but laughter is the surest.
This post is not about Africa, it's about life. But I guess if it's about life, then that means it's also definitely about Africa.
I’ve watched enough rom-coms and one too many (okay, it was just one) high school health class videos on the “Miracle of Birth” to know that the first sign of life is crying.
Let that sink in for a second. Crying. Pain. Being introduced to a world full of light that is so drastically different from the comforting dark that we had been accustomed to. When I look back on my high school journal (read: diary) I cringe through the messy script describing my hyper-emotional, melodramatic observations of the world around me. But amidst the metaphors comparing religion to a cult and heartbreak to real-life Dementor attacks (actually, that’s probably still true), I wrote one thing on those tear-stained pages that holds true:
“Crying is the first sign of life, but laughter is the surest. With all these tears, maybe I’m just now being born.”
No, the title of this blog post isn't about me. If it were, it would say 22 years! And if you're anything like the students I work with, you'll think it should say 16, because that's probably closer to how old I look. And then if you'd asked my friends, they'd tell you 5, because that has been and always will be my mental age.
BUT alas, this is all about Made in the Streets, the non-profit I've been working with in Kamulu, Kenya. On August 1st, we celebrated 20 years since the inception of this ministry that has continuously served Nairobi's street children under the leadership of Charles Coulston. 20 years ago Charles and Darlene Coulston began something beautiful with a handful of kids in Eastleigh, and since, transformation has been the story. As much as the ministry transforms the individuals it serves, the ministry has transformed itself tenfold.
I could say so much more, but I think I'll take some time to learn how to say it better. In the meanwhile, here's a few minutes from the 20th Anniversary Celebration in Kamulu that does at least a passable job of capturing the spirit and love abound at MITS. Definitely worth the all-nighter (I thought those would end in college but apparently doing what you love can have the same effect as a 30 page paper that was assigned 3 months prior). Enjoy!
What happens when silly American games meet timeless life lessons from Kenyan teenagers?
The past week and a half has been a more complicated one. There has been so much on my mind and so many changes happening around me, and thousands of words I could write. But sometimes it makes more sense to (for at least a little while) cut out the noise, process in peace, and strip everything that's going on down to its foundation so that I can remind myself of my own. Editing photos is also a certain type of therapy for me, so in the spirit of simplicity, I leave you with 25 black and white images of the people and place building themselves into the foundations of my heart.
The big question I started getting, especially from other American visitors, during my time at Made in the Streets is, “What brought you to Kenya and MITS?” I’ve heard lots of nicely packaged answers. Some stem from childhood dreams, others from a clear calling from God, a family tradition. All are here to serve, to “transform street children for God and country,” as the saying goes. Just like all those other questions, we all make our mission and purpose sound so much clearer than is actually the case. We know who and how we’re here to serve.
I know why I came, and I have an answer to that that would fit nicely on a 3x5 index card. But then, someone asked me not why I came, but why I am here. And the truth is that perhaps the reason I am here is not the same as the reason I came. Perhaps I am only just catching on to who and how I’m here to serve, beyond my job description.
Now I’m interning with Made in the Streets in Kamulu, Kenya, worlds away from everything familiar to me. And with everything and everyone familiar stripped away, I’m realizing again just how little of my identity I’m actually so sure about. There are no roommates, college traditions, or solo soul-seeking road trips to rest my identity in.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
It's been brought to my attention by the people who know me best that they know nothing about my daily life at Made in the Streets in Kamulu. I can't really say that's an accident-- describing experiences while they're happening has always been difficult for me. It's also especially hard to sum up the people here in just a few descriptors, so everyone from home has been getting the, "It's been great, the kids are incredible, and you should probably just come visit yourself!"
I know, I should really work on that. But for now, I'm going to attempt to sum up what a typical day here might be like!