Archive for the ‘Swahili’ Category

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.  


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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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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This has been a wonderful weekend.  SILA held a weekend-long “Workers Empowerment” meeting that went for most of the day on Saturday and until about 3 or 4 this afternoon (Sunday).  In addition to the weekly training and discipleship meetings, the “workers empowerment weekend” is designed for intensive study and to help bring everyone on to the same page.  The entire SILA staff comes, from farmers to teachers.  Others also come who are just hungry to learn more about God.  One man drove from a town several hours away to join us. There were probably about 60 or 70 people there, and many, many kids—including the staff and children from Dominion Home.

Yesterday, Joseph, David and I all spoke. Their desire is to help everyone understand that whatever they are doing is sacred–rather than secular– and that they are called into ministry in whatever they are doing.  David spoke for at least three hours straight!  The man can preach! I was so happy to hear how they are teaching a mature word of the Kingdom and I felt great freedom to share from my heart. I spoke on the “planting of the Lord.”  It was what the Lord specifically told me to teach on–the Seed of Christ being planted within us and our new nature in Him, as a Tree of Life. He said to tell them that they are His planting, the planting of the Lord.  I spoke last and all of our messages seemed to build upon one another…it was like one long message with many voices—which is how it should be! (I suppose my message was “short” since I only spoke about an hour).  

I also brought my guitar and was able to lead worship in my first Swahili song, as well as several others in English.  It was so exciting to be able to bless them by singing in their language, but I know that I was the most blessed!

I love how they worship in these meetings.  In between messages, everyone prays and someone might stand up and share what they got out of the message.  Someone else might break into prayer.  Another person will just spontaneously start singing, often in the traditional “call and response” style and then someone else in a different part of the congregation will launch out with a different song. Without making a big deal about it, the services are all directed by the Holy Spirit and everyone is free to participate and speak and lead in song. The songs are probably about half English and half Swahili. And what worshippers they are! I felt right at home with them and the presence of the Lord was very sweet in our midst. 

After the meeting we had beans, rice, ugali, and goat stew as well as nyama chuma: roasted goat.  They slaughtered a goat just for the meeting, so it was fresh!  And delicious!  We also had “chai,” which is the basic word for tea..…with milk and sugar, just the way I like it. (Chai Masala is what we think of in the US, with the spices in it).

I discovered last night that I would be speaking again this morning, so when we came home, I got together my next message.  Again, the Lord told me specifically what to share:  His desire for relationship with us, and His desire for the 1st commandment to be in the first place, leading into the second. It is all about love. This is our highest call, and this is what brings us to maturity in Him. It is open to everyone. I knew that He really wanted to touch their hearts and let them know how valuable their love is to Him. He wanted to set them free from living before the eyes of man, and live in confidence and joy before the eyes of God.

When we got there this morning, everyone was so ready, and so hungry in the spirit. All the early birds broke into spontaneous worship and we sang and sang until everyone else arrived.   Diane spoke first this morning–on faith.  She shared a lot of her testimony with Jesse and their walk of faith.  It was very encouraging to us all.   The Lord’s presence was so strong and sweet all day.  At the end of my message He gave me a prophetic song from His heart to sing to them.  I could see the Holy Spirit ministering to many.  It was so beautiful to see some wiping away tears of joy. Afterwards, we all ate again.  It was a wonderful time and I am glad that I am starting to get to know everyone.

I just want to thank you all for your prayers for me, because God is really showing up in a wonderful way here.  He has taken me past so many fears—and given me such joy and confidence in what I am doing here.

I drank fresh boiled organic milk today with my meal—from one of the cows on the property.  It was good!  There were loads of kids at the meetings.  They would always come in for part of the service and then be released early so they could run and play in the big school yard.  I got tears in my eyes each morning when the orphans from Dominion Home came walking in all properly and took their little seats in our midst, some glancing over at me with shy, excited little smiles.  I spent time playing with them outside between meetings.  There were four little girls named Mercy in the big group of kids.  It is a VERY common name here.  They were all surprised to discover that my name is very unusual in the United States.  There were also several kids named “Praiser,” (I love that) as well as many names like, Faith, Hope, Joy, Patience, etc.  I held a little baby named Joy, and everyone joked that Joy and I looked just alike, except our hair was different! Ha!

Tomorrow afternoon, one of my new friends, Ruth–who is a teacher at SILA– is going to take me to buy African fabric and then over to a seamstress, so I can have some traditional dresses made.  I hope I look very “smart” in them.  (If you are told your hair looks “smart” or your outfit is “smart,” that is a big compliment around here.  Everyone wants to look “smart” including myself.)

There is so much more I want to share with you; about the elegant Blue Gum trees that are a type of Sycamore, with pale trunks and peeling bark…the orange and fuschia bougainvilla, the roses—of every color—that are imported to Europe (you can get a dozen delivered to your house for just a little over $3), the huge sisal agave cacti and cactus trees all mixed in with the pines, palms, and perpetually flowering trees (pink, purple and orange/red).  There are plant nurseries all over the place, and this is a great part of Kenya to grow coffee; one of SILA’s next projects. 

In climate, this is a city of eternal springtime and it is hard to believe that Eldoret is the site of such a horrendous massacre that took place just a few years ago during the last presidential election.  (Eldoret is accented on the first syllable by the way—for those who like to know how to pronounce the words they are reading, even if only in their mind!)  In those days, they created a makeshift refugee camp out on the fairgrounds…and on Friday, those fairgrounds were used for a huge agricultural show; clogging up traffic in town so badly that all we could do was inch along to the “roundabout” where a muzungu and about 100 Kenyans were arguing over a fender bender.  I think the roundabout (a big circle with 4 or 5 roads leading out of it like spokes on a wheel) is a rather horrid chaos-breeding British import. I suppose they work OK if people follow the rules, but here it is nothing but a free for all.  Kudos again to Diane for her amazing driving skills!  She can hold her own with the best of them!

After almost 2 weeks here, I am amazed at the resiliency of the Kenyan people; all the African people, really.  They have endured things that would send many Americans into a therapy cycle for the next 20 years, but somehow they just keep going—and they do it with a smile on their face.

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Before I start this blog, I feel like I owe a quick apology to some of you, in regard to the way I have presented some things. I don’t want anyone to worry about my safety here. I have definitely been on a huge learning curve since I have been here and several of you have told me that you are glad that I have decided not to take that trip up to Kakuma.

The thing with Kakuma, is that many muzungus do go there all the time, (ie international aid agencies, etc.). You just have to go with the right group. Of course, even then, nothing is guaranteed. Diane wanted me to go with a group that she knew would be safe, and David and the SILA group are as safe as they come.  However, it might be that if I was with them, they could be at a greater risk.

Even so, as I said earlier, I don’t think I am going to do it (this time at least) because God has given me a different assignment—to focus on the children and SILA. Every time I go out to the home, I have the greatest measure of joy and peace that I have experienced since being here. I know that is where I am supposed to be, and where the greatest blessing is.

Part of my adventurous spirit comes from living in Mexico as a kid, and while in college. During that time, our family, and later myself, did many things off the beaten track. Even as a child, I found myself embarrassed by the other Americans travelling there—their loud voices, their clueless attitude, their fear to touch anything on the street. I suppose a resolve was born in my heart way back then to never be like that. I enjoyed the “real Mexico,” or at least as much of it as I could get my hands on. I travelled by myself down there when I was in college, stayed in many homes with Mexican people, and though I had a few scrapes (a few of which were genuinely frightening), I felt mostly very safe.

I was entering Kenya with the same frame of mind, but have since been awakened to the fact that the culture here is totally different than Mexico…I cannot think just in terms of Kenya alone, but the whole region. So anyway, please rest assured that I will be focused on what I was sent here to do and will not do any side trips at all, unless I really know that the Lord is leading me to do so.  Thanks sooo much for your prayers!!

After hearing many stories about the sadder side of life here, the violence, the shams and corruption, etc., I went to bed the other night feeling really stupid about the title of my blog, “ordinary daisy.” I felt like the quintessential naieve little…daisy…and I felt I should have chosen a stronger, more appropriate sounding title or theme…Something like “God’s glory manifested in Africa” or “flaming sword” (spiritually speaking of course!), or something that had a little more muscle to it!

Honestly, what good is a daisy in a region of the world where it is not uncommon for emaciated babies to be discarded into pit latrines by their own mothers? (One of Moira’s sons, and many of the orphans at Testimony Homes were found that way). So, I was feeling stupid and telling the Lord about it. And then, He reminded me (again) that HE had called me daisy—it was not something that I had chosen for myself. And He reminded me (again) that to just be who He made me to be is the most powerful thing I can do…And that it is through the seemingly “weak and foolish” things of this world that He displays His glory.

Most of all, He reminded me of the necessity of keeping my Eye (the eyes of my heart) focused on the sun (on Him) at all times, like the daisy. More than ever, I needed to be reminded that He wants my eyes to be continually filled with light, and to focus on the light, even as I behold works that were wrought in darkness. He reminded that those who keep their heart open to Him and their eyes on Him at all times, are the ones through whom He will change the world…And in fact, the only way that the world will ever be changed. Jesus demonstrated this perfectly, leaning on the Father and doing only what He SAW the Father doing and speaking only what He HEARD the Father saying.

I think of Jesus beginning His public ministry at a time in Israel’s history that was filled with religious confusion, corruption, and violence simmering just under the surface. He could have started out with so many more “powerful sounding” messages, but instead He delivered the most powerful message of all; one that still sounds strange to our ears today: “blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are the meek…blessed are the peacemakers…don’t worry about tomorrow…rejoice when you are persecuted….turn the other cheek…forgive everyone…don’t fear man, but fear God alone…you are worth more than many sparrows….don’t do things for the outward show or praise of man…seek first the Kingdom of Heaven…be TRUE in the secret place of your heart…”

Jesus knew that this is what we needed to hear. Either this message is true everywhere and anywhere, at any time, or it is not true at all. But if it is true, then it is what Kenya needs, the United States needs, and I need.

I have been drawn deeply into prayer the past few days; in fact it seems like I cannot stop praying and singing. I am probably going to wear a circle in the grass of Diane’s front yard! (It is quite nice to pray out in the sunshine).

Once again, I’ll just say that I am sooooooo glad to have my guitar. I learned a few Swahili worship songs yesterday, which I have already sung with the children. (This was after my first lesson in Swahili yesterday morning…Jina langu ni Mercy! Jina lako ni nani? Mimi nina upendo Yesu).  (My name is Mercy!  What is your name?  I love Jesus).

We spent some time at Dominion Orphanage and school yesterday. I went into all the classes and met all the kids (many more in the surrounding community attend the school). The rooms are tiny cement rooms without doors—still under construction. Big clouds of dust blow in sometimes. The kids are all dusty, in dusty little blue school uniforms. The “school house” is actually on loan from Kweli, and in the future it will be a dormitory. But for right now, it functions as a school house.

The classes are “Baby Class—3 and 4 year olds)” “Top Class—5 year olds” and Standard 1st through Standard 3rd, with the oldest kids being 10. (There are only three kids in standard 3rd; Standard 1st is probably the biggest). I had fun just getting to know them all. They were so polite and all took turns shaking my hand and introducing themselves. I practiced my Swahili with them and we counted to 100 in Swahili and sang the ABCs in English, and played many other games. The teachers were also very polite and warm. I am really going to enjoy working with them. Afterwards we went back to the Home and helped the kids with their homework and hung out and played.

 Today, I am going to meet all of Moira’s orphans. She is bringing them into town (she has about 11 kids living in an orphanage outside of town, and several more living in the house here in Eldoret). We are going to have a fun day of songs, games, lessons, and so on. Diane and I are making a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for them–an unusual treat in Kenya!

I can see that part of the reason I am here is for the Word to go a deeper place in my heart.  Now is the time to see the reality and truth about all the things we talk about behind the cozy walls of our churches in the sheltered United States.  Here is the place of the touchstone for me; for God to test, refine and approve me.  Back home, I threw myself into prayer and worship, believing with all my heart in the power of “sowing to the heavens” and letting the Lord sow back into the earth through the vapor (prayers and worship) that we release from our mouths.  One of my friends had a dream of me playing my guitar and just singing and singing and singing…singing the word of the Lord over this whole region and over the children…Declaring the answer, and not the problem.

And so, I am keeping my single eye on the Light of Life—on HIM—and singing for the grain, new wine, and oil to spring up from this land. Like Elijah, praying until the cloud comes, and the heavens open and the rain comes down.  For He has fashioned us in Christ to be like a cloud, dropping down water from the midst of the bottomless well of Himself within us, moving in heavenly places by the winds of His Spirit; even the quickening breath of His mouth. 

“You who bring good tidings, get up into the HIGH MOUNTAIN…You who bring good tidings, LIFT UP YOUR VOICE WITH STRENGTH!  Lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “BEHOLD YOUR GOD!”

I have been rather stuck in Isaiah 40 for the past few days. I recently discovered that there are only three places in the Bible where the phrase “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” is used following a prophecy, and they are all in Isaiah. 

“Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5).

The mouth of the Lord has spoken—and all flesh shall see it together….This is His word, and has become mine as well.  The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.  Blessed be His name!

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