Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I like my job

This last week was a nice microcosm of my African experiences. I had to deal with disapointments (my knee injury and not being able to play soccer, go on walks, etc...), had adventures (like meeting a man who works at the hospital while going to pick up Karen's finished engagement ring, who then took me to the hospital, took me past any lines, gave me an x-ray and read it all for free. "I just wanted to say thank you for coming all this way to help out country"- his stated reason why), and some really enjoyable times of relationship.
Of note, I've gotten to explain the gospel in a natural and meaningful way twice in the last week. Both happened at the Boy's Ranch and flowed from what we were already discussing in Bible study. They weren't planned, and extended our conversations further than any of us had anticipated when we began. The first night, one guy, Beya (18) understood in a very personal way the reality that a day of accounting is actually going to come. It was a holy moment, actually, one which I've rarely been a part of.
I've also continued to enjoy the Bible study at the orphanage, and the children there seem to be getting into it a bit more. This Friday, they all had their assigned verse memorized! I'm so proud of them, especially that they've begun to work harder on it, rather than just letting it slide. I've continued telling stories to illustrate the truths in the verses we study, and they've continued to enjoy them!

I also got to have a skype conversation with John Kameru, my dear friend and colleague at AMCC! He was in high spirits, and enjoyed telling me about their first mango order (which brought in a $90 profit over two weeks, and also allowed him to stay at AMCC!), the accomplishments of the children at AMCC (many 3 of whom are ranked 1st in their glass, 2 are 2nd). One child at AMCC (Joseph) has been ranked 8th in his grade out of the 40 surrounding schools, and another girl (Teresia) won a poetry reading contest and will be going on a trip to Mombasa (the 2nd largest city in Kenya, 8 hours away, on the ocean) paid for by her school!
Nick is also wrapping up his time at AMCC, and leaves on the 31st- just a few days away!

Please pray for:
- God to move through the Bible studies that Karen and I are doing here.
- Grace in transition for the Walkers, Karen, myself, and Nick as we're all leaving Africa in the next month.
- Provision for AMCC, and for profits to increase from their sustainability project.
- Wisdom and presence for Karen and I as we transition, not only culturally, but relationally.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. They are appreciated!
P.S. No one has responded to me about paying for my Zambian visa, so don't feel shy if you want to! ;-)

Nick's latest post

Another site seen daily here in Kimata. These women are carrying napia grass to feed their cows at home.

Speaking of home, Nancy's back! Upon her return, she brought with her various types of food including maize, avocadoes, potatoes, tarrow root and beans! These were donated by her family. I asked her what the best thing about going home was.
She said that fixing her parents kitchen, which was days away from being totally destroyed, gave her great joy. The kitchen, by the way, was made from mud and sticks. Though the new one isn't permanent either, it is a great improvement from what they had been using. Maggs and I were very happy to have her back after two weeks.

About Maggs, SHE"S GONE! All of us here at AMCC were sad to see her go, though no one as much as me. She gave a speach to the kids before she left and they all hugged her to the point of collapse. 

However, before she could depart, we welcomed Barbara and Chris who had just flown in from Holland. Barbara is the missions director from Grace World Outreach. Chris is her cousin who leads a college-aged ministry in Arkansas. As soon as they got to AMCC we put 'em straight to work pickin beans! (Not really; John and Nancy are way to hospitable/Kenyan to do that. I was the one who had to initiate the bean-pickin.)

It was a bitter sweet couple of days. I was excited to see a mentor of mine (Barb) but sad to see Maggs go. Of course the kids gave Barbara and Chris and even Maggs and I a warm welcome when we arrived. It was a huge hug-fest! When they wrap their arms around you, they don't let go until you pry em off or you're on the ground.

Mark's parents sent us a package! Thanks guys! The spices were much appreciated! It's amazing how a few spices can change a meal entirely. They also sent some good books for the kids to read and some biblical and educational decks of cards.

In other news, Paulo, the youngest got chicken pocks! Or small pocks, I'm not sure. Anyway we're countin on all the kids getting them in the next couple of weeks. 
This will be kind of a bummer deal but I guess they all gotta go through it sometime. Please pray that the Lord would bring quick healing and finances for the medical bills.

Finances! We have delivered our first mango order! We got a profit of 10,000Ksh which will help AMCC not to be in such great debt. Because the system is a bit different than avocado harvesting, we'll have to wait a week before we get the check. We didn't make as much as anticipated but we've got about 6 and a half months to figure out how to increase profits.

Bloom church in Denver sent AMCC a couple of letters, which were super encouraging to the kids. In response, the kids will have the oportunity to draw or write something back the Bloom this Sunday. THANKS BLOOM! You guys rock!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dislocation Station

Bad News: I dislocated my knee yesterday while playing soccer. Thankfully (or not, only time will tell) it was not the same knee that I dislocated two years ago. 
Thus far it seems to not be of the same caliber that my first one was (I don't feel any chips of my knee cap floating around), but since it only happened yesterday I don't yet know how badly it messed up my ligaments, tendons, etc... 
This is fairly deflating for me, especially as I consider trying to return to the US, find a job, and marry the woman of my dreams. Depending on how bad it is, my recovery time could be a year (or more) and that would dramatically change the number and kind of jobs that I can work. 
I appreciate your prayer for healing, and trust in God's plan and provision. I'm not really worried, but I have begun grieving the things I won't be able to do because of this injury.
 I also appreciate you joining me in thanks to God, that it wasn't anything worse, that it happened to me and not one of the boy's at the Ranch (whose access to medical help is much smaller than mine), and that God knew about this and will work it for me good- even Karen's! 

My greatest thanks to you. May you sense the reality of the nearness of our God. 

I spoke too soon!

Does anyone remember like 2 months ago when I said that I had received all of the funds I needed for my trip? I was totally telling the truth... for my knowledge at the time. 
However, I was forced to buy a $200 Zambian work visa three weeks ago (scroll down to read more about that frustrating experience). This cost was unforeseen by me and the agency whom I am working under here, and therefore was not in the amount that I had been trying to reach. 
Soooooo, if you were thinking about contributing some money toward my trip but decided not to because I reach my goal, then consider your desires met! You can still make out a check to: Heart of the Bride Ministries, attach a sticky note to the check that says "For Mark Dawson" and send it all to: 

Heart of the Bride Ministries
PO Box 786
Niceville, FL 32588

    Thanks so much. I'll update again if/when this need is met. 

Note: I had the address on this blog posted incorrectly yesterday. The zip code for HOB read "23588". It is now correct as "32588"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's not a dream anymore!

I’m getting married to the woman of my dreams!!!

Last Thursday night I asked Karen Hartman to marry me and she said yes! I’m ridiculously happy about this and am thankful to God for her. She is the only woman in the world that I would want to live with or spend the rest of my life with, and I am praying that I’ll learn to be a good husband to her.

We don’t yet know when we’ll get married, but we’re thinking it'll happen sometime in the future.

Here are some pictures! Isn't she beautiful?!?!

I love my life! On top of getting engaged this last week, I’ve just had an absolutely wonderful time here lately. I live at the Boy’s Ranch, and I get really enjoy it! The boys are fairly well disciplined, and I’ve tricked them all into thinking that I’m cool, and we get along great. We play Frisbee, and one-on-one soccer, and tell stories together. I pray with them, and do Bible studies with them, and just talk to them. They tell me about their lives on the streets, and where they came from, and what they’d like to do, and it’s just really great to do!

            Most of them also speak less-than-perfect Engrish (as it’s pronounced), and I share a number funny thoughts just with myself and God. The boys really enjoy hearing me talk about how “Kah-len is so byoo-tee-fool”.  They get a kick out of it, and I enjoy the subject matter, so it’s a nice fit. They also spend lots of time asking me about America. Half of what I tell them is just made up (and they know I’m joking), but I also try to be intentional about portraying to them that America is NOT heaven-on-earth and that the physical amenities that people there have do not translate into fulfillment or happiness. They are surprised to hear that Americans commit suicide, or that they aren’t happy when they have a nice car or house. The problem isn’t that Americans have high standards, it’s just that their hearts do: physical things can never satisfy our spiritual longings, and it is the spiritual longings that really drive most of our actions (the need for acceptance, forgiveness, community, purpose, and love).

            It’s so fun to talk to these boys about this stuff, and then I realize that soon I’ll be entering back into the culture which has ensnared me in the past. It’s a sobering thought to realize that when I go back I make a very complex trade with life here. I am able to get the ice cream I love, and play the sports which are fun to me, and be gainfully employed, and walk around safely at night, but the pressures of lust, materialism, and pride in my own accomplishments will also be felt much more (especially since in America I’ve done what’s cool to young people these days: volunteering in a poor  nation). I’ll trade the laid-back relationships for more intentional tasks, and I’m excited and reluctant to make this transition. Most of all I will miss the people here, and in Kenya as well (whom I already miss, but somehow I will more when I’m in the US).

            You can pray for me, and my fiancĂ© Karen about these things.


As for AMCC:


-       Nick got malaria!!! Please pray for his recovery and health, and that God would use this for his good, his gf’s good, and also the good of AMCC.

-       Pray for physical provision for AMCC: food, rent, pay for the employees, and for us to be able to hire new employees since Nick will be leaving in less than a month!

-       The children at AMCC to know God and His love, and to love one another.

-       The kids at AMCC to work diligently at school, and to be healthy.

-       Unity for all staff at AMCC, for us to balance our personal lives well with involvement at AMCC. 

Post from Nick's blog last week

monday, july 6, 2009

Friends! First I'd like to appologize for not updating my blog in about 3 weeks. A few things have happened which have kept me from doing so.

I've had some blogging complications that you will be recieving an e-mail about. The other reason is because for about 4 days Maggs and I went to climb Mt. Kenya! This was truly a blessing because we didn't think we would have a chance to do it.

Not much has changed here lately, except that Maggie and I have had a few days where we are the only two running the entire place. Thanks to the $100 that Grace World Outreach gave a couple weeks ago, Nancy has ceased the opportunity to go home for a break and bless her family with the money. This has been a long time coming. The last time she was able to go home was about 7 months ago. The Pastor is still working hard on the avocadoes and can spend some nights away from AMCC leaving Maggs and I to pick up the slack. Recently AMCC was blessed with avocadoes from some of our neighbors whose original avocado harvesters didn't show up. The children had a good time helping to collect them because the farms were so close.

Here at AMCC, and all of Kenya along with most parts of Africa, children are caned more often than those in the states. They seemed a bit more disciplined that most kids in the U.S. as well. It's very different for me culturally but I've become a little more used to it. I found that the children don't seem to feel oppressed or threatened by caning, however, Maggs and I have been instiuting some other ways of discipline. Here you can see David sitting on top of Jerald with their arms around each other. This was the consequence for their hitting each other. After a while sitting there, I asked them if they were brothers and if they loved each other. They both responded postively to each inquiry.

Njau the Butcher (pronounced "Jow") is a noteworthy person in our small sub-district. This man doesn't speak English but has a servant's heart that speaks louder than words. He owns this small butchery in Mukarara, a village that lies about 3 kilometers away from Kimata. When we have the money, we buy meat from him. He's always been faithful in allowing us to charge our cell-phones and any other electronical device for free. He plays a huge role in supporting AMCC in this way. He's also been super helpful for me to practice Swahili with.

Recently the rains have been scarce, forcing the children to hike to a nearby river to draw water. This is a picture of the kids hiking back up the side of hill with jugs full of water. None of them are fat. 

The next picture is of a technique that John and Nancy use to get the children's attention when telling them something very important. You can see Nancy grabbing her ears as she tells the children to do the same. I know it looks a bit militaristic but don't worry, the kids are all laughing at this point.

This is another noteworthy person in Thika Town. Her name is Sho-sho (grandma) Victoria. She has a small shop in Thika where she sells a variety of fruits and veggies for a living. She loves the Lord and has always been an encouragement to Mark and I and helpful in supporting AMCC.

This man is Samual Mwangi. He deals with coffee in the area and has brought by a sample for us to ship to some friends in the U.S. The coffee that is bought in our region is going for about 25 shillings. The same coffee in the U.S. is being bought by 1200 shillings. Of course there should be a price gap from the famer to the consumer, but not a gap of 50 times the selling price. AMCC hopes to be able to buy the coffee from the farmers at a greater price than the Kenyan buyers. We're hoping this will give Kenyan farmers a hand in getting out of the cycle of poverty while helping AMCC pay the bills.

The last picture is of the four staff members walking to a celebration one Sunday afternoon. A lady that is a cousin of John was healed and the church she is a part of decided to celebrate by meeting at her house and eating together. I wish we did more things like this. The people here seem to have a cool spirit of thanksgiving. It was a great time hangin out with people who were so appreciative of the Lord.

The only other news is that we should be getting a mango order sometime next week. Please be praying that we can actually get the order and that all goes well with the new business venture. Nancy should have a few more days off befor her return. Also, pray that the Lord would give Maggs and I wisdom in how to love and discipline the children here while the Pastor and Nancy are out.

Mungu Akubariki!