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Archive for March, 2011

I haven’t been feeling well the past few days, with swollen tonsils/throat and low energy.  It was a combination of things that brought this on, but mostly because I was too cold for several nights.  (I’m such a wimp in the cold.  I am a bit envious of people who are warm or hot all the time…In the same way I am in awe of people who can fix cars and know how to make money and so on.  They are like a whole other breed of person!) 

Anyway, this little sickness coincided with the anniversary of my one month arrival, which has led to a lot of time of prayer and reflection as I have been resting. 

All the schools around here are getting ready for their April break, due to planting and harvesting certain crops.  We will finish up the lessons on “One Thing” this next week and then shortly after that, Ann Fyall, who started the Dominion Home will be visiting from the States. She will be here for 3 weeks.  The Kenya schools also take off the month of August, but continue through the summer. That leaves May through July as my remaining months to effectively pour into SILA/Dominion through teaching classes for the teachers and kids.  During those three months, I plan to teach a course on the Gospel of the Kingdom…the Kingdom of God. I am really excited and have been thinking about it a lot.

The other night I woke myself up from a dream in which I was explaining the Gospel of the Kingdom.  In my dream, I was talking about the rock that Nebuchadnezzar saw that crushed the statue in Daniel 2 (the image of antichrist with Babylon as the Head…too much to get into here) and brought it to chaff, so that it was found no more!  And then the Stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.   The Stone that struck the Image is David’s stone that struck Goliath…the Stone is none other than Christ (head and body), and the Kingdom that fills the earth belongs to Him…and us. 

It is a kingdom that will never pass away but will continue to increase until all creation (from the inner workings of every heart, to every cell in every body—to the farthest reach of every star) is “righteousness, peace and joy” which is found in the Holy Spirit…Till every man is a Tree of Life…till neither root nor branch nor fruit remain—anywhere in creation—of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Or you could say it this way: Until death is forever swallowed up in life!

The Stone that strikes the statue also strikes each man (a mini-Babylon in himself).  Do you see it hurtling towards you?  Or have you already fallen on It?  The Rock will fall on us or we can fall on the Rock. Either way, the Rock wins.  This Rock is Violent Love.  The word of the Rock is “grace, grace!”  And the Name of the Rock is Jesus Christ!  His Kingdom is upside down and inside out from the way the kingdoms of this world operate.  And yet, it is His Kingdom that was before and is the Kingdom that remains after everything else has been shaken.  It is the truest reality. And its increase is inevitable!

In this Kingdom, blessed, happy and to be envied…are the meek…are the merciful …are the pure in heart…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  This is not the culture of earth.  But it is the culture of the kingdom that has come to earth and will one day fill the earth.

Wise are you if you set your heart to learn the ways of the Kingdom now and to unlearn every other way of thinking and being; painful as it might be.  Wise are you if you learn to turn the other cheek, forgive and bless when you are wronged.  Blessed are you if you learn to live before the praise and esteem of God, rather than the praise and esteem of man. Wise are you if you learn to let God put to death within you that which is puffed up and rotten to the core.  Happy are you if you see the rottenness within yourself and mourn because of it….for most certainly, He will then comfort you and cleanse you and continue to lead you in the Way; establishing His own nature in you. Blessed are your ears if you can hear His words…and wise are you if you actually put them into practice and DO them! 

There IS a Kingdom coming, and a Kingdom that NOW IS…indeed a Kingdom that always was and evermore shall be. The more we learn to live joyfully under the authority the King, the more kinglike we become…In fact, there is no other way to become a king.  For there are many kings in this Kingdom; indeed the Kingdom is a nation of kings and priests!  But the man parading around in lawlessness to the ways of the Kingdom; the man who acknowledges no King, is certainly no king himself.  The mark of a true king is that he has a KING. The mark of a true lord is that he has a LORD. (This is easily seen in the lives of Saul and David…the very apparent differences between a king without a King and a king with a King). True Royalty recognizes and honors Royalty!  Royalty stoops down to wash the feet of Royalty. True Royalty also stoops down to wash the feet of that which is not royal!

Entering into and living in this kingdom has very little to do with dreams and visions and all other “super spiritual” experience.  Some people are more spiritually attuned than others (and some just have fertile imaginations or great intellect), but NONE of these are qualification for entering or living the Kingdom of Heaven. (In fact, these things most often work against us.  It is very hard for the “rich man” to enter the kingdom…and he is often drunk on the “old wine” leaving him with no taste for the new).  The door is open to everyone to everyone who is childlike, who is poor in spirit, who thirsts, who knocks.  (I am speaking from a human perspective here).  It is also true that no one can even see the kingdom unless they are born from above.  

I love how Clarice Fluitt says that the things of the Kingdom become ours by reason of use.  As long as the ideals of the Kingdom are nice concepts sitting on a shelf, the kingdom will never be manifested in our life or the world around us—regardless of what we believe (or say we believe) or how many years we have sat under “kingdom teaching.”

Many dream of the perfect Kingdom after they die, but learning to walk and live by its principles right here, right now, is a whole different story.  But this is what we are called to! Hold your tongue.  Apologize.  Give.  Draw in the outsider, the lonely, the broken. Do when it doesn’t make you look good.  Do it when it kills everything inside you and your own justice is denied. Do it before the eyes of God alone.  Learn to let HIM be the judge. 

I hear the Lord saying to all of us, “To be found faithful in a small thing is no small thing before My eyes!”   For he who is faithful in the smallest thing will be faithful in the great things. All He is looking for are faithful people to whom He can entrust greater treasures…so that greater righteousness, peace and joy can be made manifest now and into the ages.

Whatever small things He has committed to your hand, beloved; whatever light He has given you to see with…WALK in it.  Put it into practice.  Share it. For Jesus said there will come a time when the light will be taken.  At that time, we will walk by the Light that has been formed in us as we have submitted to it and lived by it.  “Walk in the light, while you have the light, that you may be SONS OF LIGHT”  He said.  And if there is no light within us at that time, it will be because we refused to walk in what was shown to us.  “If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” said Jesus.  “He who does not have…even what he has (or thinks he has) will be taken from him!”

Sobering words, but the message of the Kingdom is not all fun and flowers.  The Kingdom is not just a concept or a distant ideal.  It is the heart of God expressed; His very purpose for creation.  Sharp as a double-edged sword, it will certainly circumcise every heart.  And the Door into this Kingdom?  I remember years ago when I was talking to God about His purpose and plan for the ages.  He spoke words that have never lifted from my heart, and I pray by His grace never will be.  He said, “Just remember this, Mercy.  NO ONE enters the Kingdom of Heaven apart from the Cross.”  Elementary words to most Christians, but weighty in their outworking.  And certainly words that many in the so-called Kingdom would do well to remember. 

This Cross—yes, this TREE— at the center of Creation is a profound mystery that I know I have only begun to plumb the depths of. While there is much yet for me to learn, there is one thing I KNOW.  The Cross is the Love of God expressed in the most powerful and meaningful way that He could possibly reveal it. 

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s GOOD PLEASURE to give to you the Kingdom.”    And He thirsted as He hung on the Tree, thirsted for true fellowship in His Kingdom with the many sons who He would bring to glory even as He was in glory. A family who will restore the face of the earth; a people with His own nature, character and ability.  A holy nation of kings and priests. What was He thirsting for? He was thirsting to drink of HIMSELF in US! THIS is the Kingdom, and THIS is the price that was paid for us to enter into it and become a new creation.

If there be those who deny the cross and the King who gave His life upon it, you can rest assured of this: They are NOT “kingdom,” regardless of what they might say.

At the center of the Kingdom is a Man on the Throne, and He has nail-scarred hands and feet.  Let us never forget!  The hands that fashion us, the hands that discipline us, the hands that wound us at times…are Hands that were wounded for our iniquities, the very Body that bore away the sins of the world.  And as the Potter works at the wheel, every pot that is fashioned by Him will bear His signature; the marks of the Lord.  This is the imprint of His nail-scarred hand into the soft clay of our own hearts and how could we refuse it?  It is not a proud and haughty hand that seeks to fashion us, but One who understands. This is the proof of every king in the Kingdom: does he bear in his body the marks of the Lord?  For every pot that is stamped with this inimitable signature is a vessel of honor and will be treated as such by those who have eyes to see.

I remember how my mama would cry whenever we sang “The Old Rugged Cross” in our family worship time which we had every night when I was a child.

I am reminded of those words as I write, though I find myself changing them around just a bit.  If you know it, won’t you sing with me and thank Jesus for what He did for you?  For all us!

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross; the emblem of suffering and shame.

And I love that old cross, where the Dearest and Best, for a world of lost sinners was slain!

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, as my trophies right now I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross, and trade it today for a Crown!”

Yes, there is a future crown to come (Paul entreats us to run in such a way as to win it!), but there is a crown for us now…a measure, a down-payment on the one to come.  If you are in the Kingdom, put on your crown (the mind of Christ) and step out into the world to serve it, as all true kings and priests do; with that rare mix of humility, compassion, wisdom and kingdom authority which brings heaven to earth.  

And if everything I am saying is new to you, I entreat you to surrender your life to His Lordship.  Repent, believe and receive the Kingdom! You will start small, and it will cost you all….But if you keep pressing on and do not quit, He will make something magnificent out of your life that will bring glory to Him and fill your heart with joy unspeakable.

Let us all continue to change our way of looking at the world and how we live in it; because the Kingdom is here and within our grasp.  That is just another way of saying, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Whether we are in Africa, the US, or anywhere else in the world, God is looking for people who are radical enough to believe the Kingdom and live by its principles…so utterly impossible to fulfill, and yet so easy for the new creation.  His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. Better to live by these principles, even if it costs us our life, than to evade them and be found in outer darkness.   

Radical, I say– not just for a day or a year…but for a lifetime.  It is one thing to start radically, or to run with passion for short spurts…but another thing to run this way year in and year out.  The most radical and inspiring people I know are the old saints who have run the race with passion and perseverance for a lifetime. Paul said that if you see someone really doing that, to imitate them…and you will be blessed. 

Please pray for me for these next 5 months in Africa, that God will reveal His Kingdom in fresh ways in our midst and that many blind eyes would be open and deaf ears would hear His words of grace and truth.  That His love would be demonstrated among us in power!  That we would be found in Him and He in us.  There is nothing else worth living or dying for.

Mercy

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A few weeks ago, I woke up with a Christmas song going through my head: “It Wasn’t His Child,” speaking of Joseph and how he was not Jesus’ biological father.  I have learned to stop and consider the songs that I wake up singing, because sometimes the Holy Spirit is speaking to me through them. 

I was finding it strange that I would have such a random Christmas song on my mind—not one that I even like that much, or have listened to recently.  As I came to the closing line, “But it wasn’t his child…it was God’s child,” suddenly the why behind the song became apparent to me.  I immediately thought of the children at Dominion Home.  God was reminding me that they are HIS children first and foremost; and to love them and honor them as if He had personally come up to me and said, “Would you watch my children for me?”   He reminded me of how valuable they are to Him….and that whatever I do for them, I am doing for their Father.  They are HIS children.

Festus

I had a wonderful time with His kids this weekend.  I have so enjoyed getting to know them more, though I cannot communicate with them fully because they all speak Swahili for their first language and the younger ones hardly speak any English at all.  That doesn’t stop them from chattering to me, and I just smile and say “mzuri sana!” which means “very good!” 

I decided to wrap up the art supplies as presents, to make it more exciting for them.  I don’t think they get to open a present very often, if ever.  When I handed out the brightly colored packages to the kids, they did not even know what to do. Every single one of them sat there staring at the gift.  I had to show them how to open it, and instead of ripping into it, they began to very slowly and carefully remove the wrapping paper.  They each had their own big pad of paper and there was a large Tupperware container filled with crayons, colored pencils and markers for all of them to share.

Some of the kids coloring in the sunroom

They immediately all grabbed a marker or pencil and began to draw.  I watched them for a while—for a good 10 minutes, not one of them picked up a different colored marker or crayon.  I realized that they had never created anything with different colors.  They knew how to draw a picture; but coloring it in was not a concept they were familiar with.  

So, I began to draw very colorful pictures and designs, and demonstrated to them how to use many colors on one page.  They were so excited and began coloring in their little drawings.  They sat there for hours and hours, drawing and coloring.  Soon the other adults and I began to draw things for them to color—a sheep; a dog; a lion; and so on. I knew the kids would like the art supplies, but I was shocked at how much they liked them—ALL the kids.  Not one of them was bored with it.

Nicely labled images

After several hours, I had them put it away so that we could have story time.  (Time to practice our English, among other things)!  After story time, the illustrations in the books only gave them more ideas, and they all went back to coloring.

Feasting on Termites

It rained all day Saturday, so we spent the day inside.  As evening rolled in, the kids started running and jumping all around the house. They were laughing and shrieking for joy.  It took me a moment to realize that they were trying to catch bugs that were flying all around the lights.  I thought they were moths, and thought it was cute that they were so excited to see them. 

Faith, showing me a termite

Then, Naomi caught one.  She came up to me excitedly, and right in front of me she ripped it wings off and popped it into her mouth.  It was not a moth, but a termite!  Without its wings, it looked like a huge ant.  I had heard that people eat termites around here—fried or raw.  Feasting on termites is considered more of a “country” thing to do, but even many sophisticated city folk grew up eating them. 

Solomon getting ready for a snack

I looked around the room in amazement as the kids caught termite after termite, ripped off their wings and popped them into their mouths.   They were still laughing hysterically. It might as well have been raining candy from heaven. The floor was littered with termite wings; some of them twitching. I think half the fun must be trying to catch them!  So, I joined in the fun and gave the termites I caught to the younger kids.  I know it is a good source of protein for them…right??! 

Naomi sweeping up termite wings

A few of the kids offered me one to eat and I for a brief moment, I considered it.  Naomi told me that they taste like lemons. (I thought she was going to tell me they taste like chicken!)  But I couldn’t bear the fact that they were still alive and had little legs and antennae that were moving.  I decided that my compromise will be that if I am offered a fried one in the future, I will try it, but for now at least I am drawing the line at eating living termites!

Finally, we cleaned up the mess and had our dinner…standard stuff:  Ugali, cabbage, and a tiny bit of meat—freshly slaughtered sheep, which Diane and I got for them at a small butchery on our way in.

When I went in to kiss each kid goodnight, they all shrieked with laughter as I hugged and kissed them.  They sleep two kids to each twin bed and do not use pillows.  (I hear that is pretty standard around here).  They do not have pajamas to sleep in, but just sleep in the clothes that they will wear tomorrow. (At least that is what they do on the weekend)!  

I want to begin to introduce you to each child so that you can get to know them personally as I get to know them more.  Here are the first three…God’s children.

Maxwell

Maxwell with a flower

I will start with Maxwell.  His middle name is Precious. At 9, he is the oldest boy and has an amazing ear to ear grin.   He is serious and tries hard at everything he does.  He is a great soccer player and loves to draw cars and trucks.  Like most all the other kids, his mother died of AIDS.  He has some relatives somewhere who come to see him on occasion.  Abraham told me that he is so excited when that happens and so sad when they leave.

Maxwell and Solomon

He and Solomon (the next oldest boy at age eight) have a bit of sibling rivalry going on. On Sunday, when all the kids were coloring, he and Solomon got into a spat.  I am not sure what exactly happened, but Solomon poked something in his eye. 

Maxwell was crying in the corner, when I noticed him and went over to assess the situation. I took Maxwell in my arms to comfort him and I was amazed at how he just nestled into my arms in a fetal position.  Kids here do NOT cry for attention.  It doesn’t even occur to them; and Maxwell has never been much of a snuggler.  I knew that his response to me was out of a deep need in his own heart and so I sat there with him for hours.  After a while the other kids let me know that they also wanted a turn on my lap. But I knew that I needed to keep holding Maxwell and I whispered to him that I would sit with him as long as he wanted me to. 

I kept stroking his back and kissing his head and singing to him.  As I did, I began to “see him” as a young man, with his big smile, all secure in the love of the Lord.  I know he has a great future ahead of him.  I prayed in the Spirit over him and sang over him and told him every affirming thing I could think of.  I kept whispering to him, “Your name is Maxwell Precious and you are precious. You are precious to God and to me.“  Finally, I asked him if he wanted to go outside and he whispered, “yes.”    We sat in the sun with the other kids and drank Uji and then Maxwell went to bed.  He was exhausted from all the emotions and his sore eye.  He is sensitive and intelligent and was one of the first kids placed in the home but I know he must have many memories of his earlier childhood.  Please keep him in your prayers.  Like every other kid on the property, he is one of my favorites! 😉

Viona and Frieda

I am going to introduce Viona and Frieda together, since they are cousins, as I discovered this weekend. 

Frieda

Other than Patience, the small son of Abraham and Ann who are the house parents, Frieda is the youngest child in the home at the age of 4.  She is always the first to come running to me when I first arrive, and hangs on me more than any of the other kids. She us such a little snuggler! She is a very pretty little girl with a ready smile and quite a little chatterbox, always talking to me in Swahili. 

What a beautiful smile!

When I get someone else to translate for her, I am always surprised at the things she is saying.  Holding a bouquet of bougainvillea: “See these flowers I picked?  I am going to give them to my daddy” (Abraham).  Looking at me with excitement: “We are all going to sleep in the same house together tonight!”  Comment after we took a short tour around the property: “We should have spent more time exploring that field instead of come back home so fast!”  I have explained to her that I do not understand, but that doesn’t keep her from talking to me, and I am glad.  Frieda really brightens my life!  She is all girl, and her favorite color marker by a long shot is pink, with yellow coming in second.

Viona

Viona is a few years older than Frieda and has the thickest, curliest eyelashes I have ever seen.  I have enjoyed watching her in action.  I discovered this weekend that she is quite a ham.  While I was holding Maxwell outside while we were drinking Uji, I was watching her and Naomi chatting.  I wish I knew what Viona was saying, because she kept making Naomi laugh so hard she that almost fell off the bench. 

Deep in thought

Viona is also very creative.  Last weekend, she had a whole outdoor kitchen she had created, and was mixing up mud and “cooking” it in a few tiny bottle caps that she had found somewhere.   This weekend, after we got back from our walk in the field, she had collected several baby grasshoppers for which she built a small house out of rocks and tiny scraps of wood.  (The babies didn’t seem to want to stay in the house, but she was diligent to continue to make it very nice for them and keep putting them back inside).  She seems just as happy playing by herself as with the other kids and always has something interesting going on.  Her favorite color marker/crayon was orange.  She is also the only girl that chose the orangy color nail polish, and she was also the only one who wanted matching color on her finger and toenails.  Like her cousin, she is one of the more snuggly children.

Abraham told Diane and me a little more about the girls.  Both of their mothers had died of AIDS and before coming to the Home they were being cared for—along with about 20 other cousins—by their grandparents, who live a few hours away.  Abraham described their grandfather as a godly man who really loves his family and hated to let two of his granddaughters go.  It was only because he was so desperate. 

Frieda in the flowers

I don’t know how many of his own kids had died, but he had taken all of their offspring into his tiny house.  The situation was pretty much impossible for him to care for them all…not enough food, room, space, etc.   I think this must be a pretty special family, because these two girls are amazing.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that they had such a wonderful grandfather.  While Abraham was telling us the story, Diane and I had the same idea at the same time:  to go visit the grandfather and take him a big bag of maize or beans and just encourage him and bless him. We plan to do that sometime this week.  We are both looking forward to meeting him.

We also got the idea to make a special “memory/identity” book for each child, which we will give them in September right before I leave.  That gives us several more months to collect as much info as we can on each child, including any old pictures we can find of them when they were babies, or photos of their biological parents. 

We will also fill it with photos of them having fun and photos of other adults and parent figures in their life who love them.  We will write them poems and letters (and get others to do so as well) and give them special Bible verses, etc.  Basically, we will put as much into the book that we can that will give them a strong sense of their identity and the knowledge that they are loved and cherished and unique. 

Please pray for us in this endeavor—that each book will be a treasure to each child and say all that God wants us to say to them. I think this one of the best things that we could do for them, and I feel like if nothing else came of this trip, just making these books for the kids would make the whole thing worth it. What a privilege and joy to serve God’s very own children.

Today is the one-month anniversary of my arrival in Nairobi!   We had another wonderful morning with the teachers at SILA.  Abraham, the “father” at the Kid’s Home, just sent me a note thanking me and welcoming me in one of the best possible ways I would ever want to be greeted— as an “ambassador of a new song!”   I thank God for the many new songs for all of us that He is releasing in His presence.  We leave every meeting humming a melody and filled with joy.

Abraham helping a kid across the fence, as we surveyed the property. Dominion Home in the distance.

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I am sitting here listening to one of my favorite songs that randomly popped up on my iTunes: “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips…it feels especially nice–and a little strange—to be singing it while looking out my bedroom window in Africa! There was a time when it seemed that my life was divided into so many separate segments; each with their own beauty that felt isolated from the others. I longed to somehow unite everything I loved, so that in my heart, they could all be one and my heart could be one undivided unit.

Some of the sweet kids at Dominion Home

I have discovered that the closer I am to God, the more united and whole every part of my life becomes…no longer any orphaned areas of my heart, or aching nostalgia for things that I can’t even articulate—but every part of me brought under the shelter of His wings. It has been wonderful to discover that it really is true–everything that I love is in God. Every good and perfect gift is from Him.

 “Unite my heart to fear Your name” said David….Unite my heart to see You in everything, to love You in everything, to thank You in everything….to walk with You in every area of my life, every moment of the day and night….to give everything to You, and receive a kingdom in return!

Descending into the Kerio Valley through thick clouds

In the Kerio Valley on a rainy day

Diane and I had a great time in Kabarnet. We drove up high into the mountains to 9,000 feet (through thick fog and clouds) and down into the Kerio valley, which was full of Acacia trees and giant termite mounds. It was hot down there, with termites buzzing around like flies because of the rain.

Then we drove back up to 9,000 feet again, to the little town of Kabarnet (“Kab” – “place of”, “Barnet” – the name of the Scottish man who settled that area…from a European standpoint, at least). The best way that I can describe Kabarnet is a high altitude jungle!

I had the eeriest feeling of déjà vu as we drove into the town. Everything looked familiar…I recognized it! The way the road curved, the big building at the corner and then going up the hill into the town. It pulled up a dream from deep in my memory; a real dream, which I could not totally recall, but in which I remembered going up and down streets that seemed just like what I was seeing out of the car window. It was very strange.

Neema and her mother behind their house

The town is home to John and Sharon–friends of Jesse and Diane’s. John is somewhere in his 30’s and originally from Montana. He has been in and out of Kenya for over ten years and is married to the lovely Sharon, from Nairobi area. They have the cutest little daughter, Neema, (pronounced Nay-ma), who is 5. John lived with Diane and Jesse for 6 months when he first came to Kenya, and he is like another one of their “sons.” Neema calls Diane “grandma.” John and Neema immediately felt like old friends; and they have been in and out of some of the same places I have. They lived in Kansas City for a year and were a part of IHOP, and John also knew of Kelley Varner. I look forward to getting to know them more while I am here.

Neema

Neema and Betty

I had a lot of fun with Neema and her “sister,” Betty, a 7 year old Turkana girl who is living with them so that she can attend school. (We only got to meet Betty at the very end of the day, since she was in class—a very gentle hearted and shy girl with a beautiful smile).

I loved their little house, halfway down a steep hill, and nestled amongst the tropical pines. While we were there, several other friends came over to visit; namely Chepsat, a local pastor and man of integrity. He was counselor to the former president of Kenya, and is very humble and kind.

Typical scene in one of the high altitude villages we drove through

After spending the day with them, Diane and I drove back down into the valley, where we spent the night at an AIC (Africa Inland Church) guesthouse. It was started by some friends of Diane’s who are from the UK. (He is Scottish and she is Irish…but alas, they have since moved back to England). The beautiful place was now being managed by a very capable Kenyan couple, Edward and Sally, and their little adopted boy, Emmanuel. (Ok, Emmanuel is not necessarily helping to manage the place, but his cuteness adds a lot to the whole ambience!)

There was a group of Turkana people visiting on a special tour they were taking with World Vision to view agricultural areas all over Kenya. The Turkana people are very traditional and colorful in their dress and lifestyle. They mostly live on the border of Lake Victoria. The ladies all shave the sides of their head to create a Mohawk, which they style with braids and in other ways. They are very stoic until they start singing…Then they really let loose! Some came and ate at our table–not out of preference, but simply because the dining hall was full. I could tell they were very shy to sit with us, and most of them cannot even speak Swahili. They do not like to be photographed or gawked at any more than the rest of us. I was surprised to see them make the sign of the cross before they ate their meal.

The Turkana people worshipping God in the tent

I was glad that I was able to get a short video of them the next morning, as they sang and worshipped God. Being the only Mzungu in the crowd, I was asked to briefly address them and introduce myself. I thanked them for their worship and talked about how we are all brothers and sisters worshipping the same Father.

We spent a few hours out at SILA yesterday and I helped feed lunch to the younger kids and played with them during their recess. They were climbing all over me and hanging on to my legs and touching my hair. I made a point to personally smile at and look at as many of them right in the eyes as I could, and every time I did, that kid would laugh hysterically. I told them to touch my hair as much as they wanted and sat down so they could easily reach it. I had to laugh as they touched my hair and whispered “Oooooh….smart!” I am sure my hair looked anything but smart, being disheveled by 50 dirty little hands! (When I pulled out the nail polish at Dominion Home, they also said the same thing, with the same touch of awe in their voice… ”Oooooooh… smart!” as I painted on coats of glitter, pink and purple on their little finger and toenails).

This morning we went back to SILA to continue the One Thing lesson with the teachers. We prayed for Japan and had a sweet time of worship after the lesson….I thank God every day that I have my guitar here with me, and most of all for His presence! Afterwards, we led Children’s Fellowship. We decided to continue our lesson on David, and this time we acted out the story of Samuel coming to anoint the new king of Israel. We had a bunch of volunteers from the students and I played Samuel. (I had flashbacks to our Christmas play at KLF. All I had to do was picture Jim Hose playing Samuel and I knew just how to do it! Ha ha!) The little boy who played David was amazing. He actually went out and found a stick to use as a staff, as if he had just been out in the field with the sheep. He bowed respectfully before “Samuel “ and later demonstrated killing the lion and the bear. I could see Diane with tears in her eyes looking at him. Our lesson was, “Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”

It seems that has really been one of my main messages the whole time I have been here, whether talking to kids or adults. Anyone can be great before God by being true to Him in the secret place of their heart…it does not require a great education or money or talent. Things that impress men do not impress God. He wants relationship. He wants reality. He is after our heart. In a nation that has been ravaged by religious games of all kinds, and where many of the wrong things have been emphasized, this message is so important. I thank God for the relationship that He is building with the teachers. SILA truly is a unique and fresh expression of the Kingdom of God and I consider it a privilege to work with them.

Viona creating a masterpiece in the dirt

Tomorrow, I will head out to Dominion Home to spend the night again. I am looking forward to all that Father will do in our midst. I am taking them art supplies this time. The kids draw in the dirt with sticks, or on a rough cement wall with charcoal. Diane and I splurged on getting each kid their own pad of paper and lots of crayons, colored pencils and markers for them to share. I can’t wait for them to see it all. I’m sure many of them have never used some of these things before.

After I get some good photos of each kid and learn more about them, I will put up some special posts and introduce you to each of them in a more thorough manner.

Morning Glories

Rainy season is gorgeous—and a LOT cooler. Here are some vibrant Morning Glories climbing over a fence.

Thanks again for your continued prayers and encouraging comments. It is hard to believe that it has almost been a month since I arrived here. At this rate, my time here will be finished before I know it….and I already feel like there is just no way to give all that I want to give. I can only trust God to multiply it and continue to multiply it. I truly appreciate your prayers!!

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Victim No Longer!

It would be great if this blog was the title of a lofty subject, such as overcoming the obstacles of poverty and prejudice….but instead, I must sink to a lower common denominator of the universal victimhood that we all experience. 

My Key to Liberation

Diane and I are studying Swahili and someone lent us a little booklet with funky hand-drawn illustrations, entitled: “Tafsiri: Kingereza kwa Kisahili” or “Translation: English to Kiswahili.”

(Kiswahili is the proper way to refer to the language.  The prefix “ki” is added before English as well, making it “Kingereza”).

On the inside cover it says: “This book is designed and printed to help children and adults who are not conversant with the two languages.  Some cannot express themselves in Kiswahili but can do so in English and Vise-vasa (sic). This book is to help the victims to understand the two languages. “

Backside of the textbook

This is now an old joke, but I still am unable to read the preface without cracking up. In fact, I was just now unable to type it without laughing.  The first time I read it out loud to Diane I started laughing so hard I could not breathe and almost fell off the couch with tears running down my cheeks.  (OK, my sense of humor is weird. The things that make me laugh the hardest almost always have to do with language).

I am pretty sure that the victims refer to people like Diane and myself, who are unable to speak Kiswahili.  But somehow, I am more convinced that the real victims are the ones that we attempt to practice our Kiswahili on!

However, like every victim, there comes a time to stand up for yourself and make a change.  All over this nation, brave men and women are overcoming victimhood and learning to fluently express themselves in Kiswahili and English! Now that my days of ignorance are over—linguistically speaking—I expect to be preaching in full Swahili within a year, as one brother promised me would happen if I stuck with it.

Today’s post is nuthin’ deep, ya’ll—just an encouragement to keep studying and learning new things!   Why be a victim of the tyranny of mono-linguism, (I think I just made up a new word), when there are so many vibrant and beautiful languages in which to express oneself?  Or at least to try to express oneself!

Speaking of language differences, Anna was cracking us up this morning, describing the influence of Black Americans on Kenyan youth.  “When you ask them how they are doing, they say, ‘poa, poa’ or ‘cool, cool’ instead of speaking properly.  When greeting, they just slide the hand as if they have no energy.  They also suck the trousers!  It is very bad manners!  The belt is there but it does not support properly and the trouser hangs down very low! The trouser is new, but the bottoms are dusty and getting worn.  They walk as if they are carrying something heavy in their trousers!”    (Anna imitates the walk, and assures us that she will not allow her pre-pubescent boys to greet her with a slide-slide, or suck the trousers.  I can only assume that “suck the trousers” means that it looks like a vacuum cleaner is beneath them, pulling their pants down. Anna is no victim of being unable to express herself!) 

We had a great morning at SILA with the teachers today.  I am really enjoying teaching the classes on One Thing and it is great getting to know them more. I always close out with a worship song.  The first class, I sang a very simple song by Misty Edwards that says, “I don’t wanna talk about You like You’re not in the room.  I wanna look right at You; I wanna sing right to You.  I believe You are listening.  I believe that You move at the sound of my voice.  Give me dove’s eyes…Give me undistracted devotion for only You.”

After the class, one of the men came up to me with a smile that I could not quite make out and said, “ah, dove’s eyes.”  I honestly thought he was laughing at the idea, but I discovered later that he loved the song.  This morning, he asked me to sing it again and told me it was his favorite of all the songs so far!  What I initially thought would just be one lesson on One Thing is turning into a series—of sorts.  I realized there is no point in rushing through these concepts, so we are taking our time with it.  The presence of the Lord is always sweet in our midst and I look forward to every class.

 Diane and I will be taking a short trip to Cabernet tomorrow, to visit some friends of Diane’s…a missionary from Montana who married a Kenyan woman. We will probably spend the night. Diane says it is a very beautiful drive and area.  It will be our first trip with her new vehicle which is arriving tonight—as David drives it up from Nairobi.  

Amaryllis

On another lovely note, it just started raining here!  Rainy season has officially begun!  It has been very dry—I know all the flowers and gardens and cattle—along with everyone else—are rejoicing!  Big red Amaryllis flowers began blooming in the yard yesterday and what appears to be crocus. Blooms, blooms everywhere!

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What a wonderful weekend!  I recently returned from the Dominion Children’s home, where I spent the night and spent much of Saturday and Sunday.  I had been looking forward to doing this for some time, and so had the kids. As Anna told me, “Now they will know that muzungus are just like everybody else, when they see that you will sleep in the same place with them!”  It seems that the whole weekend was a discovery of that very thing—for all of us!

First, allow me to quell any fears that might be arising in some of your hearts.  The Home is located in a quiet little community outside of Eldoret—basically just some dirt roads and a scattered farming community.  The elevation seems to be a bit higher out there.  It is very quiet and peaceful, with red dirt roads and Blue Gum trees; plowed corn fields and wandering cows and sheep; mud homes with grass or tin roofs, and stick fences around tidy yards.  A car might actually show up on the road only 3 or 4 times a day—if that.  Most people walk to get to where ever they need to go.

The Home is one of the nicer ones in the area, I suppose, because it has tile floors and electricity, though it is lacking in indoor plumbing.  The shower is basically one long open room with unfinished cement walls and floor and a spigot. The “choo” is located a short walk away to the adjoining Kweli property—two outhouses side by side with a big hole in the middle of the cement floor, which is for squatting over.  (I have to say, I find that nicer than a nasty old toilet seat!) 

Moira and William lent me a cot and some blankets that they use for camping, as well as a battered old mosquito net.  I also brought my guitar, kids books, Bible and Swahili lessons, nail polish, and food.  I forgot a hair brush and a few other personal items, but it all worked out fine.  Nancy, who helps in the home, loaned me her room for the weekend.  I was expecting to just sleep in the living room, but she insisted.  Her room is about the size of a walk in closet; with just enough room to hold the cot and my things.  It was very gracious of her.

Festus gets his head scrubbed by Nancy

After we had lunch (red beans and corn with a few other veggies—seasoned with cilantro), the kids washed outside.  Nancy scrubbed the smaller ones, and the older ones scrubbed themselves.  The boys had one bucket of water and the girls another bucket.

Once everyone was clean and the clouds rolled in making it a bit cooler, we went on a walk.  Cornelius, who lives on the Kweli property, along with several other men who work for SILA, went with us.  

I am glad he was with us, because he knew all the neighbors and short cuts and cool things to see.   After going down the road and talking to people with a passionfruit farm, we cut across a field and went down to a cow dip. 

Then we cut across another field and through several people’s yards (I felt a little weird about that, but just followed Cornelious.  No one seemed to mind, but just welcomed us (“karibu”) and shook our hands as we walked through their yard.  

Short commercial: I got some great photos of the kids this weekend and while on the walk.  It was wonderful getting to know them all so much more.  The shy ones are starting to open up.  I will do a blog soon just on the kids, and I will make a better effort to actually upload more photos to the blog instead of Facebook!

the gang!

Back to the walk. We eventually came out by the main road, after walking through the two biggest buildings out there—a hospital and church right next to each other; both looking in semi-disrepair.  After scooting through the barbed wire fence, we went to visit some friends of the kids.  I had seen the front of this particular home as Diane and I drove in and out; and I had always wondered about it.  It seemed like there was a little storefront window there, where people could come up and buy candy or eggs, and who know what else. 

We went in through the little gate, and into a lush little country home-place. This tidy little compound was home to some very industrious and hospitable people who welcomed us to come and sit on their small plot of grass, which had laundry lines strung in one corner and big blooming bougainvilla in the other. There were chickens clucking around and cows through another gate.  Sitting on the grass was an ancient, rail-thin lady holding a fat baby. The house itself was made of mud—three separate one-room buildings adjoined by an overhanging tin roof where people sat on makeshift benches (kinda like a front porch).  Everything was swept very clean, making the dirt floors seem downright tidy.  One was the living room—just big enough to hold several chairs and a desk.  I didn’t even attempt to go in it.  I did notice that the centerpiece of the room seemed to be a radio hooked to a battery, which they graciously cranked up so we could listen to beautiful Swahili music coming in with much static.  The other room was a tiny smoky kitchen and I am told the third was the bedroom.  Like everyone else, they did their dishes outside, and they were all drying on a nice big wooden stump of a dish drain.  There were little flowers and plants potted inside plastic margarine tubs and tin cans and I could see several banana plants in the back yard. The whole atmosphere was so homey and pretty.  In a way it reminded me of depression-era photos I have seen of people living in dug-outs and listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry through their one connection to the outside world.  I guess it is true–muzungus really are like everyone else! 

The kids played with 3 of their school mates who lived there…they picked flowers and chased the chickens and generally seemed to have a lot of fun.  Then the mother of the home brought out a big tray of chai and we all sat in the grass and drank our mugs and laughed and talked.  I was so sad that my camera battery had just ran out of juice, because I would have loved to get some photos of this picturesque little place.  Maybe next time!  After the mother gave a special treat to each kid (a piece of blue hard candy) we took off walking home.

Back at the Home, I enjoyed getting to know Isaac, who is a room-mate to Cornelius.  He came up to me with his hand held out.  “Do you remember me?  I thanked you on Sunday for your powerful message!”  I remembered him.  He went on.  “We were surprised to hear you preach like that.  When I first saw you I thought that you must be a family friend to Diane, just visiting for a while.  You look young.  We were not expecting the powerful words that you spoke.  You came in such simplicity. Your words came from your heart and not your head.  Many missionaries only speak from their heads, but you are different. We could hear God when you spoke.  You really impacted us and gave us hope.  We are so grateful!  Your words are what Africa needs! ”   I was stunned to hear this and could feel tears coming to my eyes.  This had been my hope and prayer–and God had answered, desipite my own lack of ability.    

He continued, speaking about Jesse Grey, Diane’s husband who passed away in August.  Jesse had mentored the SILA men and many others.  I never had a chance to meet Jesse, so I was fascinated to hear Isaac speak of him.  “Jesse was never like the others.  He also came in simplicity. He would sit and eat with us.  His words were different.  He was not religious, but he spoke from his heart.  We never saw him as a muzungu, but only as a father.  He was one of us, and we learned so much from him.”  On he went, telling me wonderful stories of Jesse and sadder stories of his impression of bigger ministries who come into Kenya, stay in the fanciest hotels in Nairobi, hold conferences that cost money to attend, and then leave.  Many Kenyans are intimidated by them, he said.  They do not want to talk to the muzungu. He told me that it meant so much to them that Diane and I and others would come to the small places and stay with them. 

If he only knew that my heart has always been for the out of the way places; the places overlooked on the map.  Those are places that fascinate me.  Those are the people who capture my heart and my prayers.

And so I spent my first night at the home, eating mango, ugali, cabbage, chapattis and chicken, drinking chai, playing with the kids and talking with my new friends late into the night.  All of them, especially Isaac, had so many questions about the United States, president Obama (they are so proud of him), and my visit to Niger last year. We talked about Kenyan politics.  They also wanted to know more about Mexico; especially when I told them that Mexicans use ugali to make chapattis (corn tortillas) and tamales; and eat many of the same foods.  They were fascinated by everything. We talked, we sang and we prayed.  This morning we did more of the same.  Diane joined us for a special service for the kids and then we had a delicious lunch.  Though I was coated in dirt, I can’t wait to go back out there and spend more time with them next weekend.  It is a wonderful continued discovery: “everyone else” is just like “everyone else.”

A few more photos from our walk:

Getting ready to head out for the walk

Typical scene along the road

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Hello friends! It has been another great day in Eldoret, thought admittedly much sadder for the world at large with the devastating earthquake that happened in Japan. Diane and I have been following the footage on TV via international news stations…and we have been praying, as I know many of you have as well.

I am really starting to settle into life here. We went to SILA again this morning for our ongoing Bible study with the teachers. After the study, I taught them a new song—“The More I Seek You” by Kari Jobe. Last week I taught them a Misty Edwards medley. I plan on teaching them many of my favorite intimate worship songs (as long as they are in a basic chord progression that I can play! ha) especially while we are studying the concept of “One Thing” and dwelling in His presence. At the end of every study, we just take some time to worship the Lord and turn our eyes fully upon Him. Like me, they are excited to learn new songs. I want to learn from them, and they from me, so it works out well!

After the teacher’s study, Diane and I led “children’s fellowship.” The entire school was there…little tiny chubby 3 year olds up to 12 year olds! I taught them a new song that I had just learned from Moira, that has a lot of fun interaction with their neighbors. The lesson took on a totally unplanned twist, when I realized that we still had about 20 min left for the class. So we enacted David and Goliath. I played Goliath and died a horrible death in front of them, while one of the boys played David. The whole class was laughing. I don’t think I am normally that funny, but when a bunch of kids are laughing, it is easy to turn into a ham!

The lesson had been on how God is seeking us and how happy it makes Him every time a sinner repents. We tied it all into the fact that David was so brave because he learned to repent quickly and keep his whole life in the light of God, rather than hiding from Him when he did something bad. Because of this, he had a living relationship with God, which gave him incredible courage. The kids already knew a song about David and Goliath, which they broke out singing. It was awesome. They are so well behaved and I am impressed how much scripture they have memorized.

We will be doing Children’s fellowship every Friday and I love it! We will then take the same Children’s lesson to Dominion home and share it with them on Sunday.

Some exciting news in our little corner of the neighborhood is that Moira’s sister, Marcie, is visiting from Belgium. She is a university professor, practicing psychiatrist and gourmet raw foods chef! Yes, a gourmet raw foods chef right here in Eldoret. She will be here for three weeks and I hope to learn everything I possibly can from her!

We have already been making one of her snacks for the past few weeks: lightly toasted kale or swiss chard leaves (the plant is called “sukuma” in Swahili) sprinkled with a teeny bit of salt or other seasoning. They are delicious—like a chip—and so healthy! It’s a great snack idea. Diane and I make them all the time. In fact, I just ate a whole tray of sukuma chips tonight! (They ARE addicting!)

I am excited to spend the next few days at Dominion Home. Diane and I splurged on a bunch of toys for them (toys are really overpriced here and not a good selection). We are going to take them the toys little by little and not every time we visit! We took them a soccer ball a few days ago and they were SO excited! Everyone immediately took off running outside, to play with it. I joined them in the game and had a blast. (Boys against girls—boys kicked our butt but none of the girls seemed to even notice…when they weren’t distracted by the small village they were creating in the dirt, they were just running around the yard happy if their foot kicked the ball at all—in their rubber flip flop or bare feet. And the same went for the little boys. The main reason the boys won was because of Maxwell and Solomon, the two oldest and most focused players.  From what I could tell, they were the only ones who actually knew how to play).

Anyway, tomorrow I am taking my guitar and some of the great kids books that my aunt and mom sent me for them… we are going to study together and play together and just have fun and get to know each other more. I am going to spend the night and see how it goes. Diane will come and join us on Sunday and we will have a special worship service and continue just “being family” together. We are taking them two organic chickens (to eat) from Moira’s farm…that will be quite a treat.

What an amazing privilege it is to be here. I so appreciate your comments, prayer, interest and support. Many of you have said that you feel like you are here with me…I feel the same way—and it gives me great delight whenever I see something here with me or within me that came from one of you. It is my joy to share all of you and the things I have gained from each of you along the way. Sometimes I think, “There, I just planted a little bit of so and so in the soil of Kenya” as I share something that I gained from one of my friends. One plants and another waters, but God gives the increase! What a joy to share in the harvest together!

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If you have been reading my blog, you already know what tuk tuks are.  Now I would like to introduce you to two other marvelous modes of transportations: piki pikis and boda bodas!  For all you non-Swahili speakers, I am referring to motorcycles and bicycles.  Yesterday, Anna and I made a quick jaunt into town to do a few errands.   We walked down the street to where the tuk tuks come, found a shady place under a tree and waited…and waited…and waited. I guess I have not fully adjusted to Kenyan time, because I was thinking to myself that there were a lot of other things I wanted to get done today and I did not want to spend 40 minutes standing under a shady tree by the side of the road being gawked at by every 3rd person who walked by.

In its favor, it was an interesting shady tree.  Usually, whenever we have driven past it, there is a crowd of people sitting under it– centered around a mother and baby. I discovered that these people were selling charcoal.  There were piles of it under our feet—small mounds of crunchy black bits.  Anna said that occasionally a very poor person or a street boy will come through and collect all the little bits to sell or use. 

As we sat there waiting, several men on motorcycles asked us if we wanted a ride.  They were not looking for a date—it is their job.  Piki pikis zoom around town all day, hauling people from one destination to another, just like the men on boda bodas.  (If I ran a boda boda business, I would be worried that an extremely heavy person would want me to haul them up a huge hill!  All the boda boda riders are super skinny.  They must be nothing but bone and muscle).  Anna and I were practicing my Swahili, but I seemed to forget the word for boda boda as soon as she said it to me.  I kept wanting to say biki biki. Finally I got the etymology of the word and it all made sense.  Bikes are heavily used at the Uganda/Kenya border, and so the slang word, “boda boda” (border border) came into being! (That also gives you a good idea of the Kenyan accent, which I am still trying to learn and understand.  The other day, Moira’s kids kept asking me to come and see their “tah-toh.”  I was totally confused, but went with them, only to discover a turtle hiding back in the foliage of the yard!  I recently listened to a conversation involving an “AH-lam.”  It took about 5 minutes before I realized they were talking about an alarm).  

Anyway, back to my excursion with Anna.   It is not unusual to see two people jammed on the back of a piki piki…or one person and a huge bag of firewood.  Anna always refused the piki piki’s and finally I started to question why.  The tuk tuk was nowhere in sight and we had been waiting a long time.  I was not looking forward to a prolonged indefinite wait on the charcoal mound.  Tuk tuks do not have a schedule—you catch one when you see one—like a taxi. Anna told me she thought I might be scared on the back of a piki piki and she did not want to endanger me in any way (she is so protective of me; it is really sweet).  I told her I would be fine and would like to try a piki piki and that I had ridden on the back of them many times in the States.  She seemed surprised to hear that.  After we stopped one and after Anna gave lengthy instructions in Swahili to drive extra slow, we hopped on board.  I was directly behind the driver and Anna behind me.  Let’s just say we were super squished; all our bodies pressed together.  I don’t think personal space is a concept here.   I felt a little uncomfortable and couldn’t help but laugh as I saw school kids walking home pointing at us and giggling, as well as many other people staring.  I’m sure that a tall muzungu on the back of a piki piki sandwiched between 2 Kenyans must have been a pretty funny sight!   And probably not a very common one either!

After our excursion into town, we caught the tuk tuk home….me in the back with two large Kenyan ladies, and three people in the front.  I was sure this tuk tuk would break down going up the hill.  (All it could do was inch forward with a screech and fall back on the brakes and then inch forward with another screech and fall back again).  No one else seemed nervous, so I played it cool too.

I love the rhyming words in Swahili.  It is such a fun language to speak.  A few more fun words:  Simsim is sesame, takataka is trash, and Nyanya is either grandma or tomato.  Dudu is bug.  Pili Pili is chilie. Mi mi is I, and Wei wei is you.  They carry the same concept into their English:  “Don’t touch that pan!  It is hot-hot!”

I am learning so much Swahili from Anna.  I got a great kick out of the names of many birds, which are named after the sound they make.  The other morning I was eating toast and looking out the kitchen window to a fat bird with a long curved beak, walking in the garden and sticking his beak deep in the damp soil. I asked Anna what kind of bird it was, and she said it is a “Lg’a Lg’a” because that is the sound it makes.  She imitated it for me.  If I could, in writing, imitate Anna imitating the bird, I would do it for you–but I will just let you have fun with your imaginations!  There is another bird here called a Quak quak, and I realized that Kuku (chicken) was also named for its call.

Anna loves to sing, like me.  We have fun singing together and learning new songs from each other.  She wants me to teach her the guitar.

This morning, Diane and I went out to SILA and I continued my Bible study with the teachers. When we pulled up a few minutes late, they were already singing—in the most beautiful harmonies and alternating parts.  For a brief moment after stepping out of the car, I thought I was hearing angels sing.  I suppose I was!   I am so enjoying learning all these new songs, and I especially love the Swahili songs.

We are continuing our study about being a person of “One Thing” which is just another way of saying to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.   Today, we looked at the life of Mary of Bethany who sat at His feet and heard His word. She was after His heart. She chose One Thing–the only thing, according to Jesus, that we really NEED and the one thing that will never be taken from us.  

After the study, several people asked me to please come more than twice a week.  I will probably do so, because I can see these studies are bearing good fruit and very enjoyable for all, myself included!  I absolutely LOVE preparing these lessons and it fills my heart with incredible joy to see God impacting people through them.

Thanks for all your encouraging comments about the blog!  Your interest gives me incentive to continue sharing, though I must say it is also very therapeutic for me.  I haven’t responded to each individual comment, but please know that they are all much appreciated!

love, Mercy

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