Monday, August 06, 2012

Returning To Kuria

The last few days have been so filled with stories, I'm not sure where I should begin. It has been a while since I have carved out time for blogging, and as much as I have desired to write more since starting this journey, I have not done it until now.

Friday morning Jamie and I awoke early, and began final preparations for this journey. Our goal in traveling to Kenya is to gain direct updates on Nuru's programs and to directly see the level of impact Nuru is having in Kuria and to then be able to share what we have seen with others, and Brett inform people back home in the US about this work.

After we woke, we traveled to Pittsburgh early Friday morning with my dad and another long time friend who has Made the Pittsburgh airport trip with me many times. We then proceeded from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Amsterdam where we waited for our final flight to Nairobi. We arrived in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 8:30 local time Saturday night. At the airport, we had a reunion with A very dear friend I made on my last trip to Kuria, Julius Nyamahonga. Julius grabbed a cab, and eventually we went to a hostel to sleep for the night before an early morning bus ride to Kuria.

Along the bus route, we passed through many towns, and also saw this amazing view of the Great Rift Valley. This land and it's people are beautiful. We have been greeted warmly by all we have encountered, and on the bus trip I met some amazing people who have committed their lives to the service of others. For the most part, the bus was quiet aside from the din of a radio playing local music, but at one point, I heard a young man behind me begin to sing hymns.

Later in the trip, I descovered that he was as chemist (like me) and that he was traveling to a nearby community called Migori from Nairobi to serve others. His name was Herbert, and he was an incredibly passionate and energetic man. We had a long conversation about faith, God, our world, and life in general, and then after he got off the bus, he handed me two books through the window of the bus as the bus pulled away. I will look forward to reading these gifts when I return to the States.

Our bus had a few delays along the way, but everybody arrived safe and sound in Isibania late Sunday afternoon. During the final two hours of th bus trip, we were greeted by Nuru team members Scott and Claire Rumpsa who had travelled to Kisii to visit a doctor and get antibiotics for an infected wound in Claire's leg.

Together we journeyed on and when we arrived in Isibania, we were able to all take a taxi together to the Nuru staff house and we arrived at about 430pm local time. In three days we have been on three continents. I hope to share even more updates in the near future about all that we are experiencing. We have seen so much in these last few days, I am still trying to process it all.

One last thought. This is truly a beautiful world in which we live, but also a world with deep needs, suffering, and hurting. When we can help and serve others, we inject more beauty into this world. Wherever you may find yourself today, look for an opportunity to serve.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Eagle Cliff Mountain Colorado

On our last day in Colorado, we took yet another trip to Estes Park, and this time we visited the YMCA of the Rockies, an incredible YMCA that sits on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. We traveled again with Josh, Carri, and their son, and at the YMCA, one of my long time friends from my old job at GCM, John Drage, greeted us and he and I had a brief reunion. We had about 2.5 hours to hike around before we left for the airport with the Drakes. (Love the Drakes!)

John, knowing we had limited time, and knowing he would not be able to join us, pointed out Eagle Cliff as great nearby summit to take in one last look at Rocky Mountain splendor. We took off immediately. We started at about 7000 feet along a stream, and ended at 8300 feet in elevation over a one mile stretch. I don't think I would have been able to do it if I didn't have a week of high altitude conditioning in. Josh and Carri scampered straight up (with 2 year old on back and soon to be born second child).  We made it to the summit in record time, and again, it was absolutely beautiful. We took some time to soak it in and ate a lunch that Jamie and Carri prepared earlier that morning. We turned around and made our way back down Eagle Cliff just in time to be greeted again by John.

I'm immensely grateful that I was able to spend this last day in Colorado with many friends. John had tried to get me to visit Colorado and attend a summer leadership training program GCM organized for college students, but I never made it out there until this summer. It was wonderful to be reunited with an old friend, and to be physically challenged as Josh, Carri, Jamie, and I pushed our way up to the summit and back in record time.

May we each make the most of every day, and be attentive to the adventures and the fellow adventurers that come across our paths.

Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, Colorado

 Well, it's been a little over a month since Jamie and I had the amazing privilege of being able to visit with a couple of amazing friends in Colorado. We were invited to share Nuru's story at a Java software developer conference, and while in the area, we were able to visit with our great friends Josh and Carri Drake and their young son. Josh and Carri, aside from being die-hard Mountaineer fans and lovers of the great outdoors are both pretty amazing athletes.

Josh picked us up in the Denver airport, and took us to their home in Fort Collins, CO. Josh is a graduate student working on a PhD in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. Carri also has a background in exercise physiology, and they are both incredibly fit folks. Josh rode on the cycling team at WVU, and Carri was a gymnast on WVU's team as well.

When considering where to take us to experience Colorado, they decided on Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (we also spent some time exploring Fort Collins which was pretty cool too!).

My hope for the trip was that we would be able to see Elk (Wapiti in Shawnee), and almost immediately upon arrival to Estes Park, we saw a herd hanging out in a neighborhood, and eating the blooms and leaves off trees. It was absolutely amazing to be so close to an animal that once roamed the entire United States. They were truly beautiful creatures. The only way this experience could have been better is if I would have heard an elk bugle. Perhaps another time.

After our brief stint in Estes Park, and our visit to the Stanley Hotel (site of The Shining), we traveled into Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked a trail that was fairly level, but was at 9,100 feet elevation. That was the highest point Jamie and I had ever experienced together. We hiked along for a couple of miles, and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. While we were hiking, we may have been adjusting to the higher altitude, but Carri was six months pregnant, and Josh was carrying his two year old son on his back. At our turn around point, I traded Josh and carried their son on my back all the way to the car.

It was a lot of fun hanging out with Josh and Carri, and singing Shawnee songs to their son along the way. I'm so grateful that Jamie and I had the privilege of seeing some great friends while we were away from home. Not only that, but it was absolutely beautiful country. I felt like I was walking along a movie set the entire time.

If you ever have the opportunity, you should definitely visit Rocky Mountain National Park--it is truly a beautiful place. And even if you never get to visit this park, my suggestion to you is to go outside, and explore the beauty that is around where you live. Walking in nature helps us to slow down, and simply appreciate life and the gifts that each one of us is given. And we could all use more time spent in appreciation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Early Harvest

Well, it was just a few weeks ago when Jamie and I planted a variety of corn, beans, and squash, and while the summer has been incredibly dry for the most part, our squash and zuccini plants have been doing incredibly well. In fact, every day, we are producing more than we can eat in recent days. It seems that each day, we wake up to more and more produce being yielded from our little plot.

The good news is that we have been able to share this food with others. We have baked zucchini bread, cooked frittatas, and even grilled & saut├ęd a few variations for good measure. It is absolutely amazing to see so much come from working the land, planting, weeding, and waiting for God to do his work. It really is an amazing gift that we plant and weed, and where there were only dirt covered seeds at one time, there is now an abundance of food.

This may sound a little strange, but it has been my experience when eating food I've planted or that was planted and grown by others, it just tastes better. And here in the states, I believe that people are forgetting how to grow their own food. There is an art to preparing the land, to planting, to weeding, and to harvesting. There's a rhythm to all of it that many don't experience. I know that for me, as I left home to go to college, I didn't pay a ton of attention to the work that was being done by my parents and others to grow food, and I didn't plant anything on my own for many years.

Since I've started planting, I've been amazed at both the yield of the land, and the yield to my spirit and body. There's something about taking the time to work the land that is good and wholesome physical labor with a purpose, and there is something about the process, that reminds us that most of what happens on this earth takes time. In a world of fast food, email, and instant results, we can lose sight of that reality. It takes time to grow food. It takes time to prepare food. It takes time to work the land.

It takes time for us to grow as well. May you not become disheartened at growth that is at a slower pace than what you want, and may you see a great yield of produce from your fields and from your life.