Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family and Celebrations

January 9, 2010

Family - “Familia”

What does “family” mean to you? Certainly we first think of our blood relations and our relations by marriage. We were blessed to renew many of those family relationships with our travels and visits across the USA this summer. These are relationships that transcend time and distance. We have also come to appreciate a broader perspective of family to include dear friends and those from our church or workplaces. Such shared connections, including through our faith, have drawn us together.

Our definition of family has been stretched and expanded much further with our time here in Kenya. The missionary families here at Tenwek have invited us into their homes and have welcomed us into the community as “Aunt Alene” and “Uncle Steve” for their children. We truly feel a part of the Tenwek family in service and worship and especially during the retreat and planning time together at Turi. One of our “family activities” there involved a relay competition with Steve’s face getting smeared with Vaseline and enough cotton balls to make Santa Claus jealous! (See the photo link on our blog!)

We have also been welcomed into the homes of local Kenyan families, sharing chai (tea), meals, conversation, and fellowship. Pastor Wesley & Charity’s children call us and treat us as “grandpa” and “grandma.” (Considering that we have never had any children of our own this is a quick leap!) Our language tutor has included us in meals, play, worship and celebration with his wife and three children. We have been humbled to share meals and family time with these two Kenyan families after worship together on Christmas Day and also on New Year’s Eve. It was comforting to share this closeness of family here in Kenya even if our own blood relatives and American friends were many miles away. We have felt physical hugs from family here in Kenya and “virtual” hugs from across the miles. Our families and friends in the USA have done a wonderful job of maintaining our connections with email messages, letters, phone calls and Skype (internet) video chats.

We certainly have delighted in the expansion of our definition of family. Our most special sense of family is that which we share as a family of faith through our shared belief in Jesus Christ. We look forward to the ways in which we see our spiritual family relationships continue to grow in this coming year.

Meanwhile, our work as students continues. Our language studies are going very well and we anticipate having a strong foundation in Swahili after our final 4 weeks. It will help us as we continue to connect with our Kenyan “familia.”

More Random Observations:

*It was difficult to remember the word for dog in Swahili: “mbwa” – I think, because it had too many consonants in a row. Our Kenyan Field Director, Jim Vanderhoof, helped us to remember “mbwa” as we think of some “big dog bosses,” who Manage By Walking Around…MBWA!

*Some Swahili sentences can either be a statement or a question depending upon your intonation. We were also advised of one sentence whose meaning changes by whether or not you have a smile on your face: “I am totally satisfied with this job.” Or “I’m fed up with this job.” Such subtleties in language will keep us humble and on our toes.

*Learning Swahili has involved learning about culture as well as language per se. We from USA have been indoctrinated since childhood to always say “Please” and “Thank you.” We now must relearn that saying “please” in Swahili (“tafadhali”) often connotes that you are begging. Also, saying “thank you” usually is not expected here in Kenya.

*Before coming to Kenya we were asked what food we would miss the most and we consistently mentioned that we would miss lettuce salads. We have been delighted to find a safe, local source for leaf lettuce.

*It is nice when a sink in Kenya has both hot and cold water, but it seems that we can only be about 50% certain that the hot will be on the left as it is in USA.

*Our special Christmas gift to each other this year was a field guide for birds of East Africa. We have enjoyed a colorful array of birds literally outside our front door.

*Paper mail letters from USA have been getting to us in about 8 to 14 days with 98 cents postage, but packages sent a few weeks ago have yet to arrive. (Some of the delay could be due to the Christmas holidays.) …Thanks so so much for letters from many of you!

Amended Observations:

*We have experienced daily, heavy rains during the past ten days, which have made things very muddy and have damaged some major roadways at least temporarily. The water falling over the dam near our apartment is now roaring loudly.

*Avocadoes are now in season and a large one now costs only 7.5 cents! (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to eat them!)

Comments re: photos

We do have several new photos available for viewing via our weblink:

Photos include some from Thanksgiving at Tenwek, local rural homes, family sharing, Turi retreat - Steve’s cotton ball beard!, a Kenyan wedding, UNO in Swahli, Larzarus Funeral Home (rather an oxymoron - see John 11:38-44) and “Polish shoes” (in honor of Alene’s Polish heritage).

Parting words

Steve’s work permit was ready and the paperwork was completed while we were in Nairobi, but Alene’s is temporarily delayed. This is not anticipated to cause us any problems. We appreciate your interest and prayers as we conclude our language study in February and step into our next phase of medical and ministry service.

1 comment:

roger said...

When we are a part of the family of God, we are never without family--even if we do not always recognize our relatives! Great pictures. Your brother, Roger