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Hands

Recently, my grandfather had carpal tunnel surgery. Which, as an aspiring scientist and amateur writer, got me thinking a lot about hands. So, naturally, I did two things– I looked up how the procedure was done, and I began writing this post. Once I figured out how the surgery was done and reassured myself that it was a relatively minor procedure, I began to figure out how to write this. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted this post to go. I could use my fingers to count a million different words I could write. I could use my hand to draw a map of all the different places this post could go, tracing out each path on the veins and creases on my hand. I needed a direct path from my heart to my fingers. (Fun fact, wedding rings are worn on the left ring finger because it was believed to be the only finger with a vein leading directly to the heart.) So, I fiddled with my ring I wear on my left ring finger that’s definitely not a wedding ring, and tried to find a direct path from my heart to the tips of my fingers. But, that proved more difficult than carpal tunnel surgery. My heart was telling me to write about how this surgery was just another example, this time physical, of my grandparents getting older. I wanted to write about how watching Boppa’s body grow weaker hurts, but watching his mind grow weaker has hurt more. For grandma the nurse, her hands are so important, but for Boppa, the college professor and ordained Free Methodist pastor, with two masters’ degrees and a doctorate, his mind is so important. Both of them served with their hands, one literally and one metaphorically, and I wanted to write about how much it hurts to see both of them becoming weaker. But, I decided that story is, mostly, best saved for another post. Instead, I decided, as I reflected on how important hands are, that I would write something else. Somewhere along the path from my heart to my fingertips, I decided to save the pain of that story for another time and instead write a more beautiful story. So, here it is– a different story, written with my own hands, about my own hands.

My hands have been through a lot in my short 19 year life. Throwback to when I was a baby with tiny hands yet undiscovered by me. I flailed my arms, fists clenched, and paid no attention to what, or who, I might hit. After I discovered them, I grabbed things– other people’s fingers mostly. I put them in my mouth, or other people’s mouths, or whatever was nearby. I touched things, simply because I liked how they felt. I used them to pull the baby gate out of my way, then used them for support as I crawled up the mountain-like stairs I was too afraid to crawl back down. They held my blanket and my doll as I ran my fingers across them because I loved the way it made my hand tingle and the sensation I felt in my fingertips. My hands became part of the reason my parents suspected my visual impairment. I used them to hold objects centimeters away from my face because I couldn’t see them any other way. I reached out and touched things just to see how far away they were or what they felt like because I couldn’t use visual cues to interpret the way they might feel. I’d reach down to feel just how big of a jump it was from my grandparent’s garage to their driveway, because my hands were saying it was a centimeter difference, but my eyes were saying it was a canyon. I used them to navigate a world I couldn’t see. And, later, once I had my (adorable) glasses, when I was learning to walk, I held them out in front of me again as I navigated, trying to feel my way around a world I had never seen so clearly before. Once I got used to my new perspective of the world, I used them to point at things I had never noticed before– just to make sure everyone else saw them too.

As I grew, my hands grew with me. With them, I learned to write, carefully copying each stroke and hand position. They traced the words on pages as I learned to read, my finger precisely following each shape as my mouth sounded out the forms. I held the hands of my parents as I crossed roads and parking lots– thinking that staying safe forever was as simple as never letting go. In them was placed my first Bible– a gift whose impact wouldn’t be realized until years later when those same hands held those same Words as I memorized them. They colored outside the lines, cut themselves in an attempt to cut paper, and glued parts of themselves together. They reached up to grab the monkey bars or to hold my baby cousins. I let them be used by my friends to scrawl phone numbers or flowers on. I held them out to shake hands or give high fives. They learned to tickle both the ivories and my dad’s feet. I used them to wipe my nose, put band-aids on my skinned knees, and wash my body. They held my favorite books as I went on adventures with my best friends, and they supported me when I fell down. Sometimes, they were the reason I fell.

As I grew older, my hands did too. They started writing full sentences and typing full essays, carefully drawing each shape as I saw it in my mind. Instead of tracing the words on pages, I often find them tracing the path my blood takes from the tips of my fingers, through my hand, to my wrist, up through my arm, until they arrive at my heart– feeling each beat and reminding me that I am alive. Somewhere along the road, they let go of my parents’ hands, as I reassured myself I’d be okay on my own. And now, they sometimes long to hold another hand– to be reminded that I’ll be safe as long as I don’t let go. With them, I hold my Bible– reaching out to God– knowing that they’re holding my greatest joy and my entire life. They’re still not one for staying in the lines. And I’ve cut them countless times with knives or paper or pins or scissors. They’ve super-glued themselves together more times than I’d care to admit. They reached out to accept my high school diploma, and they reach out to hold the babies and pet the puppies that cross my path. They’ve been my go to notebook as I used them to jot down that homework assignment or date. They’ve clapped and cheered for my competitors, and greatest friends, as they held in their own hands– hands I had shaken so many times– an award mine had longed for so long to hold. With them, I spread encouragement and congratulations to my friends whose hands held Words as they memorized them. They’ve had an itch to tickle the ivories for far too long, and they’ve been reminded that playing the piano is nothing like riding a bike– it can be forgotten. They’ve wiped tears from my eyes, bandaged my wounds, and washed my face.  They’ve gone to Kenya where they clapped and danced with new friends, held babies, and pet elephants. And, they’ve been longing ever since to reach back out and take the hands of the friends I met there, as they search for the piece of my heart I left behind, all the while knowing they’ll never find it– and not wanting to. They’ve supported me when I fell, and were the things that picked me back up. They pieced my broken heart back together as they fought the urge to fight the thing that broke it. 

And now, I’m sitting here, in a coffee shop, examining my hands. As I flex them and study them, all the while feeling completely crazy, I see all the things they’ve done in my life. I see my senior year AP Bio class, where I dissected eyes, brains, frogs, and worms, and where I used them to taxidermy a rat, all without wearing gloves. Because, I’ve always been fascinated with how things feel, and I can’t get the whole experience if I can’t feel. I see my junior year AP Chem class where I spilled silver nitrate on them, because, again, why wear gloves if you don’t have to. I see the incalculable amount of times I washed them, trying to get it off, but having to finally resign myself to just being patient. I see the way they served in Kenya and how I’m still using them to serve in Kenya and elsewhere. I see that time they held a young rookie as she cried, pouring her heart out, and the time they were linked with others in prayer as we cried for each other. The times they were raised in worship and surrender to the One who made them. I see my fingernails that are dirty and sometimes broken. I see the calluses I have from working. I see all the chemicals I’ve spilled on them and the times my professors forced me to wear gloves, even though I prefer the experience without. I see the way they cramp up when I spend four hours a day deleting phone numbers and emails from records, and how, with 4000 records, I still have more to do the next time. I see how I use them to bake and cook. (Seriously though, my scones and my homemade pizza are truly culinary masterpieces.) They are currently dry and a little red, because, no matter how many times I wash them and put lotion on them, the constant exposure to chemicals, from my job and from my Chemistry training, has left them a little rough around the edges.

So, here’s the thing. Here’s the point of all this talk about my hands. I believe that if eyes are the window to the soul, then hands are the mirror to the heart– reflecting the innermost parts of who you are.

I don’t believe all those people who say you can tell your future by looking at the creases on your palm. But, I do believe you can see your past, and your present, by looking at your hands. Hands say a lot about what has happened to you, and they reflect so much of who you are. They show all the experiences you’ve had and they tell a lot about who you are as a person. When I see my dad’s hands, a little rough and probably permanently stained with grease or newsprint or both, I don’t see just that. I see all the hard work he’s done over the years to support us– his three jobs, his late nights and early mornings, and the things he’d sacrifice, including time with us, to give us all he could. When I looked at the brace on my grandfather’s hands as he was waiting for this surgery, and still waits for his other hand’s, I don’t just see a hand that sometimes goes numb. As a scientist, I see a carpal ligament that needs to be cut to relieve pressure on the underlying nerve. But, as a writer, I see his past and present. I see all the people he’s served– the sermons he’s preached, the hearts he’s touched, the Word he’s spread. I see all the papers he’s graded and the students he’s inspired and encouraged. I see in my grandmother’s hands the patients she’s healed, the families she’s reassured, the friends she’s cooked delicious meals for, and the family she’s held so close. I see my sister’s love of piano playing, word writing, and book holding, and the way she used them to try to give up, but how she uses them now to list all the reasons she shouldn’t. I could go on and on about all the stories I see when I look at my family members hands.

And when I look at my own, I see it all too. I see me as a baby, discovering my hands for the first time. I see me as a child of no more than two, using my hands as a navigator for this new clear world. I see them learning to hold a pen and play the piano. I see how they no longer move the baby gate out of my way, but how they now work to move any obstacle out of my way as I face conquerable mountains I am no longer afraid to fall down. I see the bumps and bruises I’ve gotten along the way and the sores and marks they have now. And, admittedly, right now, my hands are exhausted. They’ve worked hard. This year, this life, and this summer, and they’ll work even harder as I grow up. But, I also see the way they reflect my heart. My heart of service and hard work. The way they reflect my personality based on what they do. I see the way they exemplify Colossians 3:23 without the words being scrawled on them in day old faded ink. So, look at your hands. Because they can’t predict your future, but they can reflect your past and explain your present. And they are the true reflection of who you are.

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Kenya Post? 6 Months Later.

A little over six months ago, I returned from a missions trip to Kenya. (If you want to hear about those adventures, here is a link to those posts). And a lot has happened since then. I started college and survived my first semester. I went to my first Quiz practice as a coach. I Quizmastered my first tournament. I made my first college best friend. I ate my first exotic meat (although to be fair, I did that while I was on the trip. But that, plus the kissing of a giraffe, are pretty noteworthy). I got my wisdom teeth removed. I discovered the first romantic chick flick I didn’t actually completely hate. And, I experienced my first true emotional roller coaster of pain. However, more important than any of that, and more painful than the previously mentioned pain, is the roller coaster I’ve been on since I returned.

Okay- here’s a little back story into my life. I have always been a person who loves serving. I believe that God has given me the gift of service and the ability to serve with a joyful, willing, loving heart. And, before I went to Kenya, I was using this gift in whatever ways I knew how. I was volunteering with Kids’ Ministry programs at my church, serving at fundraisers for missions trips I myself wasn’t going on, teaching Economics to kids at a local elementary school, and helping with various projects at my church when, and if, I was needed. I was doing what I felt needed to be done with the skills and abilities I felt I had to do it. I was satisfied doing what I was doing. Until I went to Kenya.

If you read my last Kenya post, you’d know about some of the things that God revealed in and about me while I was in Kenya and upon my return. If you haven’t read it, you should. But, what you don’t know, whether you’ve read that post or not, is what I have done, what has happened, and how I have felt since then.

Since returning, I have started college. In one of my classes, we read a book and talked about the slavery that exists all over the world- even to this day. And it broke my heart, hearing all the stories of all these people- primarily females- who have been forced into labor and oppression. And while these conversations didn’t make me think about Kenya specifically, they did make me think. They made me think about my “I want to change the world” attitude. They made my heart ache for the people affected. And, they made me wonder if there is more I have been called to do.

I’ve been involved a little on campus with some anti human trafficking things, and I’m helping in whatever ways I know how. However, as I said before, I have an “I want to change the entire world” attitude, and I never quite felt like I was doing enough. And, recently, there have been so many things happening that have been making me question where to go and what to do. We had Free Methodist missionaries come to one of our classes and talk to us about their work. We had a chapel speaker from Compassion International come. And all the things they talked about- all the situations they’re dealing with and injustices they’re fighting made my heart hurt.

So, now here I am. Looking at old photos from my short lived trip to Kenya. Thinking about everything God has said to me and shown me since coming home. Wondering if I am in the right place doing the right thing. Because, here’s the thing, I love Chemistry- I do. But, I also feel this huge pull to do something more. I’ve gone in circles, asking myself if there is a good reason to be here doing what I’m doing now, if there are better reasons not to, or if there is even any reason to think about all the reasons.

I left a piece of myself in Kenya. And the further into my past it gets, the more I forget so many of the once so fresh memories, and the more I feel the ache of that missing piece of me. I look at the photos from my trip, trying to piece together the missing pieces of the story and of my heart. But, I can’t. All I want to do is hop on a plane and go back. But not just to Kenya. I want to go anywhere and everywhere possible. But it’s also difficult, because I don’t know where to go and who to help, because I can’t help everyone everywhere.  And I also want to stay here and continue my education and pursue my love for learning, and for Chemistry.

And so, where do I stand in the midst of all this questioning? Well, somewhere between super gluing my feet to the floor and impulsively buying plane tickets to Kenya. I’ve done everything from convincing myself to stay here and get my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, settling down and waiting to see if I am given an opportunity to return, to trying to adopt a Kenyan child and almost crying because adoptions are closed from Kenya to the US. (And then I remembered that I’m like 12 and am not actually ready to adopt a child yet, so that doesn’t matter). Really, I’m trusting God and trying to listen to what He is calling me to do and where He is calling me to go. I’m praying and reading and listening and searching. Searching for my place. I’m searching for what God has called me to do, to study, to be, and to go. And searching for that piece of me I’ll never find but one day hope to fill.

“If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place.” Mercyme- Homesick

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Kenya Post? After Kenya. 

Last week, I came back from Kenya. I have written posts about what my group did while we were there, but now that I have returned and had a few days to recover, reflect, and regroup, I want to talk about how it all affected me. Because it did affect me, a lot. And it affected me in ways I never could have imagined.

Going into the trip, I had no expectations. We were told by our leaders, and by others who had gone on missions trips before us, not to have any. So, I didn’t. Not really. I mean, I expected it to be a little difficult at times. I expected it to be outside my comfort zone sometimes. I expected God to work somehow in someone, or someones. But, I didn’t expect Him to work in me the way He did.

I knew that God wanted me on this trip. There was never any question that He wanted me there. I just didn’t know why. But, I knew that after the trip, I would know why. So, I waited. I went on the trip, did all the stuff, and waited.

However, about halfway into the week of Quizzing, I began to become a little discouraged, and I began to wonder if God really did want me on this trip. I had listened to stories of others’ experiences so far, and I was realizing that I didn’t have an experience like that. I didn’t have any moment, or even group of moments, that answered the question for me of why God wanted me on this trip. So, I began to wonder if He really did want me on this trip, or if I had gone for my own selfish reasons.

However, as the week came to a close, I began to realize my purpose for going on this trip. The reason God called me to do it. The ways it had impacted me, even if they were less obvious than others’.

God wanted me on this trip, I believe, for two main reasons. One, He wanted me to share my incredible passion for Quizzing and love for others and for Him. And two, He wanted to teach me while I was busy teaching others.

He wanted to teach me more about His purpose and plan for my life. He wanted to show me things about myself I didn’t know. Passions I didn’t know I had. Strengths and talents I never would have discovered alone.

You see, I have always known some of my passions. I have always known about my passion for science, for Quizzing, for learning,  for words, for people, and for serving. But, I never knew how much of a passion I had. Because, although I like people enough, I am not a “people person.” Social situations are sometimes awkward for me, and I am uncomfortable around large groups of people and with people I don’t know well. And I like children, but I don’t have a personality that naturally attracts children. It takes a little more effort on my part to interact with them than it might take others. But, God showed me that, despite that, I can be an inspiration, a teacher, and a friend to others. He showed me how passionate I could be about others, and for others. By the end of the week, I wanted to adopt every single child from the ICCM school we were working in. I fell in love with them all, even those whose names I didn’t know, or couldn’t remember, and the ones who I never actually talked to or met.

While I was teaching the kids Quizzing, I couldn’t help but be incredibly excited. I have always loved helping the Rookies at my church improve their Quizzing, giving them suggestions, and coaching and encouraging them. And that’s exactly what I was doing all week. Except I was doing it in another country- half a world away. And that awoke in me a passion I didn’t know I had. A passion not only for Quizzing and seeing that ministry succeed, but a passion for seeing it spread. Everywhere. Kenya, Togo, the Philippines, and anywhere and everywhere else possible. Because it is an amazing ministry that every young teenager in any part of the world deserves to have an opportunity to take part in.  I have a passion to see others succeed in Quizzing. I want the young Pearce quizzers to do what I tried but never could do and bring back an Alpha and Omega and individual awards. I want to see the Genesis Conference win more Nationals competitions and continue to put New York on the map. I want to see Quizzing grow so much in the US that there are too many Quizzers and coaches to hold at one place for Nationals. I want to see Quizzing spread to so many other places, both near and far, so that we will have an Internationals Finals with dozens of states and multiple countries. I want to clone myself so that I can start a quiz program in another country, spread the quiz program in Kenya, and stay here to help my church succeed.

God showed me that, by giving up my own will, I can do His. I gave up my time, my finances, and my energy to serve Him. He showed me that I may have a plan for my life, but His plan is even better.

He left me with a lot of questions. I am stuck with questions of what He wants me to do with my life and where He wants me to go. I am left wondering if my current plan for my life is also His plan, or if He has something much better in mind. I am left wondering, if He does have something else in mind, if I will be willing to abandon my plans and my interests to pursue His will. He left me with questions of whether my passion for science is what He wants me to pursue, or if He wants me to follow my newfound love for far off people and places. I am left thinking about all of the kids I met, the people I talked to, and the Quizzers I taught, and I am wondering if God wants me to do something with that newfound passion for spreading Quizzing, and His word, across the world.

I am left with joy. A feeling of excitement for all that God is doing in the lives of the children we interacted with. A feeling of assurance that I definitely want to go on another trip. Whether it’s another trip to Kenya, or somewhere else. Whether it’s for Quizzing, or ICCM, or with Roberts, or with Pearce, or none of the above. I am left with a sense of hope for the future. I have an open mind, and an open heart. God opened my heart for Kenya, and I left a major piece of it there when I left. 

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Kenya Quiz? My Students Can. 

Bible Quizzing. As many of you know, it has impacted my life greatly, and it has become one of my biggest passions. This trip allowed me to spread that passion and to see how it has impacted others, both in the US and across the world, and that is a huge, important thing to me. Quizzing has impacted me more than words could ever describe, and I am excited about Bible Quizzing, I always will be. I want others to be excited too. I want others to have a chance to be impacted as much, or more, than I was by such an amazing ministry. I want others to have as much joy, passion, and love for Quizzing as I have, and I am always wondering how to spread that to others who may not have it and maintain it in those who do.

When I walked into the 6th grade girls’ classroom, I expected apprehension, both by myself and the girls. I expected them to be shy and nervous about learning this new thing and being taught by strangers. I expected myself to be worried about what to teach, how to teach, what to do,  and how they would respond. But, the girls were beyond excited to be learning this new thing from these interesting people. And I was excited and happy to be teaching them. Initially, it was a little more difficult than I had anticipated, because I had to figure out what they already knew about Quizzing and what it was, and how much I had to teach them. But, after I figured that out, I had a great time teaching them. And they had a great time learning.

The knowledge these kids had was astonishing. They knew Acts 1 and 2 well- better than some of the American Quizzers I had seen. I asked them questions, and they answered most of them correctly with little or no hesitation. They were prejumping questions left and right- although they struggled to grasp the concept of completing the question. But, they were beyond excited. And that made my beyond excited. It has been a long time since I have seen such joy, passion, and excitement for Quizzing from such young kids. It has been a long time since I have had so much fun teaching something and helping others learn.

During our “study breaks,” Lydia and I taught the girls the macarena and did the roller coaster with them. And they loved it so much. In fact, the next day, on one of our breaks, they asked to do the macarena, simply by extending their arms and starting the motions. We had fun, and we taught them Quizzing.

During this whole experience, I was left wondering how much of what they were learning were they actually learning. I mean, their entire education system is rote memorization. They memorize something and recite it back. And that had me wondering how much they were absorbing. How much they were understanding. Were they just memorizing the material because that is what they were told to do? However, my questions were answered when it came time for the girls to quiz the guys.

Before the quiz, my girls decided to say a prayer. It was totally their idea. And there were so many volunteers to pray, I was taken aback. It made me think about our prayers before quizzes. How many Quizzers, myself included, pray because it is routine? It’s like a checklist. Introductions. Prayer. Practice jumps. When we pray, we spit off some routine prayer that we use every round and have used every round for seven years. We don’t really mean it. Or maybe we do. I don’t know. But, regardless, this prayer was not like that. This was a genuine, worshipful prayer. It really challenged me to begin thinking about my prayers and how, when, and why I pray. It challenged me to begin to pay attention. To stop praying at certain times for certain things just because it’s “normal.” To start praying for things at certain times because I mean it.

During the break between the two quizzes, the girls began singing worship songs. Again, unprompted. They just began singing. These children memorize the Scripture, yes, but they understand it. They know what it says. They understand the depth of what it is saying. They live it out. They really are the prime example of what it means to live out the Scriptures learned through Quizzing. They are the Quizzers I always hoped I had been. The ones who compete well, and know what the Scripture says, but who also visibly live it. They accepted their loss with love and joy, and their win with excitement and humility.

This whole experience meant so much to me. It reminded me how exciting Quizzing can be. It showed me how excited kids could be for Quizzing. Because I have not seen such excitement in a long time. It showed me how passionate others are for Quizzing. It solidified my passion for Quizzing and allowed me to share it with others half a world away. It was an experience and an opportunity that I am glad I took, and one I would love to take again.

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Kenya Have Fun? The Kids Can.

One of the major things we did during this trip was have a Vacation Bible School  (VBS) program for the younger kids at the International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) school in Mombasa. During the program, we did skits for the kids and had crafts or games. It was very similar to what VBS looks like here in the US. And the experience was amazing.

The kids were great. They really got into the singing, and they even sang for us and taught us some songs. It was unbelievably adorable. During the crafts, they were so excited and happy. And that was a humbling and inspiring moment for me. Here the kids were, making octopi, lobsters, fish, or jellyfish out of egg cartons, paper, glue, and string. And they were beyond excited. They played with them. They ran around the room with them, pretending they were in the ocean swimming around. They made a paper craft- something most American kids, including myself, probably would have thrown out as soon as it was brought home, and they played with it like it was the newest video game or IPad or whatever. And I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty and a little humbled.
I felt guilty because I could go home, even “home” to the guesthouse, to more. I could go home where I had a laptop, cellphone, IPod, television, computer and numerous other electronic “gadgets” and otherwise expensive “toys”, that a lot of these kids didn’t have. I didn’t have to be entertained by a paper octopus or a bunch of balloons, because I have Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and so much other entertainment in the palm of my hand. And I don’t know exactly how much these kids had, but I can’t imagine it was much. Just by looking at how some of them were wearing dirty, ripped, old, sometimes too small, clothing, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. i had so much more than these kids do, and how many times have I complained because I couldn’t get the wifi to work or my phone to update?

And I was also so humbled. Because it reminded me that I should never, ever, take anything for granted. Yeah, my parents aren’t millionaires. They can’t afford the newest car, or phone, or whatever. But we have a car. And phones. And college tuition- a chance at education. Something most of these kids could only dream about. Some of them don’t know where their next meal will come from, not to mention how they’ll afford high school and college. The next time I go to buy textbooks for school, or food, or whatever it is I may need, or think I need, I won’t complain about the very little amount of money I have in my bank account. I may be frustrated that it is so little, and I may think it’s not enough to cover what I need, but I won’t complain. Instead, I’ll thank God. I’ll thank Him for providing for me and giving me something. Giving me enough. Giving me a family who may not be rich, but who is still always able to provide. And I’ll remember and pray for those who don’t have that. Whose family can’t provide. Who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. Who don’t have enough.

Those kids taught me to find joy the little things. To smile amidst any pain or struggle I may be having. To find happiness in the laughs and smiles of children. To have fun playing with a balloon or a paper octopus. To take every opportunity I have been given. To use what I have been given. To trust God. To live life.

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Kenya Church? The Kenyans Can. 

On Sunday, I had my first experience at a church not in the United States, and it was an interesting experience.

Everything you have ever heard about African churches is totally and completely correct. They are upbeat, welcoming, and crazy. There is dancing, clapping, greetings, and singing. And for me, that was a bit of an adjustment.

You see, I’m not really a “social” person. Yeah, I like people enough. But, I prefer to have conversations with few of my close companions than go around talking and meeting a lot of people and socializing with a lot of people at once. And, as far as dancing goes, I don’t do that. Like ever. I was the kid who stood in the corner at prom taking pictures instead of dancing. And they get so into their worship. Which is great, and I love it, but I’m not really that type of person either. I mean, when a song gets really intense and I am really feeling the Spirit moving, I will get into it. I will close my eyes, lift my hands, let the Spirit speak to me, whatever. But, I don’t usually get that into it. I don’t dance. Sometimes, I’ll sway, but I don’t full out dance. I also don’t really clap. I’ll start and then give up because I can’t clap and sing. And I sometimes feel that I get so focused on the clapping that I don’t allow the Spirit to move or speak to me.

So, this was a transition for me. The first thing we did when we walked in was shake hands with anyone and everyone. We introduced ourselves, and then sat down and waited for the service to start. As it began, there was singing, dancing, and clapping. It took me a while to get used to it and warm up to it, but eventually I got into it. And it was a pretty cool experience. I felt the Holy Spirit moving in ways I hadn’t felt before. I noticed myself getting into it in ways I never could have imagined. It was different. It wasn’t better or worse than my normal church services. Just different.

And, I didn’t understand all of what was being said. They had a translator, but everything was still not understood completely. The Swahili songs were not translated into English, nor were the prayers. And sometimes, even when English is being spoken, the accent is difficult to understand. So, understanding what was happening was not always easy. Fortunately, Lyle, one of the leaders on the trip with us, gave the sermon, making it easier to understand. But, regardless of the communication barrier and the difficulty in understanding and mixing in with the culture, it was a pretty great experience. I was reminded that the same God is being worshiped in Kenya that we worship in the United States. The same Spirit is moving them that moves us. We may be worshiping differently, and in different languages, but it’s the same God. And He understands everything. What we are saying, what we need, what we are thinking. Even when we don’t. And that’s amazing.

Our God is the same as their God. He is the same as the God worshiped in Europe, Africa, America, Australia, the Middle East, everywhere. He is the same God who is worshiped in a church, in your home, on the street, wherever you are. And this experience helped remind me of this. It helped me to remember that the church is not just a building. It’s not just a group of people. It’s not just a country. It’s everywhere. It’s experienced differently and done differently, but it’s the same celebration and the same God.

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Kenya? Apparently Our Bags Can’t.

Okay, so you know how you always hear those stories around and you always think it’ll never happen to you. Well, it happened to us. Our luggage got lost at the airport. Or rather, it didn’t get put on our connecting flight from Paris to Kenya. It apparently wanted to sight see a little bit. I’m jealous. But anyway, we went the first day without luggage. 

And when this situation arose, I had many emotions. Understandably, I was frustrated, sad, and upset all in one. What a way to start a missions trip- no luggage. It was an interesting experience.

On the plus side, we didn’t have to drag all of our luggage from the airport to our guesthouse, trying to squeeze 14 people and 27 bags plus our carry-ons onto a small bus. We were so exhausted we didn’t want to do anything that night but sleep anyway, so we didn’t have to try to lug our luggage. On the negative side, I didn’t have sunscreen and my allergy medicine, which meant my first day was filled with sneezing and the constant fear or being burned to death. (And I got a little pink, but it’s hardly anything. It’s not bad.) 

So, we got to our guesthouse, and the girls began sorting out who had enough clothes to share with those who didn’t. And we talked about what we were doing the next day and when, and then we went to bed. And we woke up the next day, some of us wearing borrowed clothes or clothes we had worn for 36 some hours straight. But, we got up, had breakfast, and began our day. Thankfully, it was a pretty low key day with not a lot to do. We exchanged our money, had some lunch, and then headed over to the school. We watched some Quizzing, hung out with the kids, and even quizzed an “all-star” team made up of the Quizzers who had quizzed out during the rounds. We then left, had dinner, and went back to play games and wait for our luggage to arrive. And although some of us hadn’t showered in over 48 hours, or hadn’t changed shirts in at least that long, we had fun. We laughed. We talked. We experienced new culture, and we learned new things. 

This experience was an interesting one. I was worried, and frustrated, and mad all in one. But, despite it all, I was okay. Our team was okay. We survived. And, although it was a very unfortunate situation, it was an important experience. It began our trip by forcing us to trust God completely. It forced us to believe in Him despite unfortunate circumstances. We all got a lesson in preparedness. And, we now have a great story to tell. So, it may have been frustrating or sad or whatever, but we are better for it. And I believe it has set the precedent for the trip- blind faith in God. So, yes, we went a full day without our luggage, but we had a full day of laughs and love, and that’s more important anyway. 

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