Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back Stateside

Hello friends,
For those who I haven't spoke with either via text, phone, or personally, I arrived back in the USA yesterday morning. Once I am not jet lagged, I do have some thoughts to post telling more details about my time in South Africa. But first, I wanted to say thank you for reading and thank you even more for your prayers as I globe traveled. It was such an amazing opportunity and I am very thankful that I was able to meet so many awesome Christians around the globe and have the chance to learn so much about evangelism and mission within different contexts.

I was greeted at the airport by not only my sister (who I expected) but also my Mom and Dad which was a complete surprise as they were in from South Carolina visiting my sister. It was so fantastic to have a welcome crew once I got off the plane in Pittsburgh. I will share with you what I shared at our family dinner last night. For the past eight weeks, no matter where I was eating, my host and those I was with stopped and gave thanks before eating a meal. For whatever reason, this had an impact on my reverse culture shock. When my family sat down to eat dinner in the resturant, no one was praying....this made me upset. I think (though this may not be academic) one of the reasons all the Christians I met this summer were so inspiring was their belief in prayer. There have been other reverse culture shocks (driving on the other side of the road, warm water, WAY too many channels of TV with nothing on, etc.) but this one sticks out the most. Christians around the world should all passionate in their prayers for the thanksgiving, praise, petition, and for Christians around the world. This is one of the many things I will take away from this experience.

I hope and pray this blog makes sense as I'm still working through jet lag. Thank you for all your prayers and for reading while I was away. I look forward to sharing more stories in person soon. Love in Christ, Amanda

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Sorry about the awful formatting on my confessions post. Hope it is readable at least. :) Cheers!

20 plus confessions of a world wanderer :)

Update from south Africa will be posted in time but as I had some time to think about all I've experienced and learned this summer I thought it might be fun to make up a confessional list...merely for fun and memories not so academic :) hope you enjoy I won't number as the iPad makes numbering difficult. I've been craving good hot dogs and Chickfila since china I've slept in ten different beds this summer and started dreaming about my bed 4 or 5 beds ago I've dropped many a food while using chopsticks I took a taxi literally three blocks in south Korea as I was unable to find my hotel :) I pet stray animals even though I was advised against it It took several successful airport pick ups for me to trust that my hosts would meet me and my luggage would arrive I don't like Kenyan tea......I LOVE Kenyan coffee!!! I recycled many a sermon :) The Lord continued to open my eyes even when I wanted to shut them. I learned more about trusting the Lord than i ever have before I ran in airports more times than I care to admit As I rode through Nairobi national park, all the music from the lion king was stuck in my head I could have travelled a bit lighter :) I lied on several occasions about having a boyfriend to avoid numerous marriage proposals. I love Beijing duck...and china I think had the best food I was mistaken for a Russian and German....which is part of my heritage so makes sense The lift to get to the great wall scared did walking around the wall...but it was so beautiful South Korea wins the award for best tea and cutest tea houses I'm a tall white American girl, and while I love Jesus, my dancing in worship is a hilarious sight I'm sure.:) It really is a small world after all I taught members of my china English exchange group improper southern English. Yes, I mean y'all Christians in the USA have so much to be grateful for...yet we constantly take our Christianity for granted. I really enjoyed hearing Christmas music in June while driving to the great wall While in south Korea, I secretly searched for the director of the dharma initivive and miles...oh and sun and Jin from LOST :) Though I spoke with so many amazing people and learned so much, I still have more questions than answers. I hope I remember how to drive a car :) On more than one occasion I looked the wrong way before crossing the street in Malaysia, Kenya and south Africa. I also tried to sit on the drivers side. In china, it was nice to join with other folks from the states and not be stared at by myself. I got slightly teary eyed on fathers day hearing the Chinese version of this is my fathers world. Also when I saw giraffes in the them When I heard Hanson on the radio in china, I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. I went the wrong way thru customs...twice. Though this has been the most amazing and eye opening experience...I'll even be ready to hear the Pittsburgh accent this upcoming Tuesday....and even more ready to hear a y'all :) I drank the water in Kenya...and I'm still ok People in other parts of world...china, Kenya and Malaysia especially trump southern hospitality...sorry my fellow southerns we dont come close! I love, love, love...probably too much Chinese food :) I kissed a giraffe Yes, I would do this summer over again in a heartbeat..though I'd like to bring friends and family with me next time! :) Hope you enjoy my confessions, Amanda :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arrived safely in south Africa

Greetings friends! This is just a short blog update to let everyone know I've arrived in south Africa. I will update about my time here before leaving on Monday assuming my iPad battery makes it that long. :) today I spent some time at a local church in their children's ministry as well as their homeless outreach program. On Friday, I will visit a local church sponsored center that helps the surrounding impoverished community. On Sunday, I'll attend the morning service at my host family's church and also an evening service. Monday, I will mainly pack and get ready to head back to the states. This has been such a great opportunity and adventure. Though I've met with many fantastic and inspiring people, Ill confess that I still have many questions and have lots of information to process and sort through. I hope to update again before leaving south Africa this Monday. If not, I'll update during my layover in JFK airport...and please pray for safe travels home...and quick travels home as the last stretch of plane rides seems to always be the longest. I will update again when I can. Peace and love in Christ, Amanda

Monday, July 16, 2012

Last week of my adventure

It is hard to believe I'll be heading back to the states next week. This has been such a great opportunity to see the world and learn more about what God is doing in the world. Yesterday I had the chance to attend and meet with folks at Nairobi chapel. The church was getting ready for their special Sunday where everyone is encouraged to being someone to church with them who they have been praying for over the last several weeks. The church meets in a tent that can hold 3000 while children and youth meet in smaller tents. I could tell the people were really joyful and happy to be there. Since this is an update using my phone it will be much shorter. Please continue to pray for safe travel as I head to south Africa Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prayer request

Hi friends,
Instead of visiting the orphanage on Monday, I switched some of my plans around and went today. The home housed children up to five years old (any child older than five is then moved to another home). Most of the children I was with were toddler age. Most of them are orphans because HIV/AIDS. There were even several who tested HIV positive and their parents abanoned them in the hospital once finding out. As soon as I arrived, three toddlers ran up and just wanted to be held by someone. It broke my heart..still continues to break my heart thinking about all these children. Throughout the day the children are taken care of but they seemed to be slightly understaffed. The children toddler age had a brief Bible study and were encouraged to pray with me as I blessed the food. I felt like there was so much more I could do when I left besides my donation, prayers, and leaving with much love in the heart for the children...what really was heartbreaking was as I left, a five year old asked to come with me. I wish I would have taken pictures of these children, but because it did not seem right to take pictures of crying children, I did not, though their faces are engraved in my memory and heart. AIDS is an awful thing that continues to take the lives of parents way too soon and leave their children to take care of themselves. The home is a great ministry that continues to be in my heart as I pray it will be on yours as well. I will even offer a plug for adoption of children around the world who need and deserve a place to call home and love. If you have any questions about the center or would like to contact them about adopting or possibly visiting/ donating, i will try to email information. If I have free time after church on Sunday, I hope to try to go back.

Please pray for all the orphans but on my heart are the orphans at New Life Center I met today.
Thank you.
peace and love in Christ

Friday, July 13, 2012

Time with Icuga Church: Some Highlights

Greetings friends! As promised, I will try to flesh out some of my experiences with members of Icuga church and parish. The Icuga parish consists of five churches spread throughout the community (similar to smaller versions of presbyteries) During the span of five and a half days, I spoke with approximately 43 plus members of Icuga parish churches and three different congregations from other you can imagine, I gained a wealth of knowledge from speaking with so many people in a such a short time. For now, I will only include some of my highlights here and hope to be able to share more about evangelism among the Icuga parish later. I spent a great deal of time visiting with a variety of people of all ages and backgrounds. Through hearing their stories about growing up in the Christian church, going astray as a youth, and then coming back to the church, I was able to recognize similarities in my Christian story and the faith journey of other Christians in the USA I know. Many of the challenges, such as youth wandering away from the church due to lack of interest and love from adult, that are found in some churches in the USA are found in Kenya. I was especially struck with the importance of prayer used by Christians I've met in Kenya thus far. Before we travel, go to sleep, wake up in the morning, eat, discuss, and after arriving at a destination, prayer is involved. Christians here really and truly believe in the importance and power of prayer.

On Monday, I was able to visit several of the partnership schools around Icuga. The children were so interested in seeing a tall white, American girl walking around, if you can imagine, as a foreigner, I was quite a sight for them. :) Many wanted to hold my hand, touch my hair, and were amazed at my skin. I shared a bit with them about the US, and the purpose of my coming to Kenya. I spent much time visiting with members of the church in their homes which meant lots of Kenyan is tradition and culture to welcome a guest in your home by serving them a cup of tea. I learned about a special training group in Icuga known as T.E.E (Theological Education by Extension) which works to train elders and deacons so they are able to lead Bible studies and assist with preaching and discipleship. The Icuga church also has a healthboard which works to educate members on health issues such as HIV, stroke, common colds, malaria and also counseling. The healthboard uses these talks as ways of evangelism as they not only seek to treat the health conditions but also pray for the patients and provide spiritual nurture as well. Since the community is mostly Christian, most of the evangelism is done to bring back those who have gone astray from the local church due to drug and alcohol related issues (also lack of interest in some). The local churches also work together (Catholics and various other denominations) to hold crusades and open tent meetings for evangelistic purposes. During these events, many who have left the church for various reasons, are inspired to go to church again through an intense time of preaching, Bible study, community building, and musical celebrations. Since the culture of the villages are so close-knit and community based, events such as weddings and funerals are also excellent evangelistic opportunities.

Other various evangelism techniques include: offering a service strictly for orphan children and providing a meal after the service, special youth prayer nights when youth come together to pray, have bible study, and worship with much music..youth in the church are highly encouraged to come and invited their friends who may not be Christians..this event is less threatening as it is just youth gathering together with few is involved in these events as well as music. One of the youth I spoke with stated that about five youth per prayer night begin returning back to church. Another evangelism technique that is well used among the people in the village is door to door evangelism. In the US, as far as I know, this doesn't produce great results..but because the villages in Kenya are so community based, it is not an usual thing to walk around and visit with those you don't know. The Christians I spoke with stated this method works well because people are open to forming new relationships with those they know and don't know. The culture is one that is very welcoming (I can greatly attest to this as I received hospitality that trumps southern hospitality) :) During these visits, the evangelist takes time to get to know the person and their struggles in life. Then they share verses from the Bible relating to those struggles and have a time of preaching. Before leaving they offer a pray. One person I spoke with said they brought ten people a month to church using this technique. While others I spoke with said this presents some challenges as sometimes people are not willing to listen. As I met with leaders from other churches, one pastor in particular spoke about the importance of all Christians sharing the gospel with the yet to be believers. He cited verses in the Bible, stating it is our mandate as Christians to share the love of Christ...whether we do so as ordained elders and ministers or not...every Christian has the calling to evangelize. He said we don't always have to use words reminding me of the famous quote, "preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Christianity is not only spoken, it is lived. One church I visited continues to remain under construction as it now holds 800 but they would like to continue to grow as their numbers grow.

One of the questions I've been curious about is the method of follow up with new members in these churches. Since so many of the churches I've visited throughout this whole experience are growing at a rapid pace, I wondered about the quality of the Christian education being offered to new believers. One thing I am observing is the leaders of these churches striving to make every effort that those who are new to the church KNOW what they believe and are paired with other believers in some type of mentoring program. This has been encouraging to watch as new believers are welcomed and quickly taken under the wings of other believers..but in this process, it is not just the new believer who is learning. It also provides a chance for church members to serve and grow in the faith as well.

As you can imagine, my notebook is filled with various stories from Christians in all these countries. I was encouraged by my time with members of Icuga church. They were very welcoming and worked extremely hard to not only make sure I talked to as many Christians and church leaders as possible, but made sure I stayed well, and spent time in fellowship with me which I greatly appreciated. LPC friends, Lucy, Jennfier, Joseph, Timothy, James and the rev. send their love and greetings. During my visit, we shared, laughed, and prayed together. It was a great time of fellowship. Please pray that one day they will be granted VISAs in order to come visit us in the US.

Today, I was able to do a bit of sightseeing around Nairobi. I went to a local giraffe center that breeds and rehabilitates giraffes. They are fairly tame and come up to eat from your hand. If you are willing to place some of their food in your mouth, you may even get kissed by a giraffe. (which, as an avid giraffe lover, I gladly did...if we are friends on facebook, check out the pictures.) It was quite an experience which I greatly enjoyed and will treasure the memory of being so close to one of my favorite beautiful animals that God created. I also went to visit an elephant orphanage...which honestly broke my heart. All the parents of these elephants were killed by hunters for their tusks. Some of the baby elephants were found in traps. The center does great work in taking care of the orphans and working to set them safely back into the wild. Saturday, I hope to visit Nairobi National Park and observe some more wildlife. So far, I've seen giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, a monkey, and a warthog. Later this weekend, I will attend services at Nairobi Chapel (one of the largest congregations around the city) and on Monday I will visit a near by home for orphan children and learn more about ministry and evangelism through the home for orphans. I know this will be a difficult day, as I will have the chance to hold, feed, and love on many children without homes. Please pray in advance for all the children I will meet and for all those workers who take care of them.

Love and prayers in Christ,
*again, please excuse any typos as I am trying to record many things in a short period of time. :)