Thursday, February 23, 2017

When Parents Come to Visit

When my parents came to visit us recently, our souls were filled.  We spent two whole weeks catching up, playing games, driving around Kenya, making food from scratch, and having an all-around good time.  Our boys reconnected with their grandparents, which meant extra attention and lots of book-reading, and Caleb has since asked us several times, "Which day are we going back to Michigan?" because having a great time with Grandma and Grandpa forces such questions to emerge.  It was sooooo good to have them here!

When my parents came to visit, they helped us a lot.  They pitched in with washing dishes, changing diapers, entertaining kiddos, and even helped with the Preschool class I'm teaching.  My dad pulled out his piñata-making skills and helped create two heart-shaped piñatas for a Valentine's party for the kids, which they loved!  I could never have pulled this off by myself with ten kids.

When my parents came to visit, they learned a lot about our life here.  It was wonderful to give them a glimpse into our daily life, like homeschooling and living in community and finding chameleons and knowing where to get water when our filter isn't filtering fast enough.  Eli also gave them a lengthy tour of the hospital, which helped them better understand the work of a missionary doctor.  They ate ugali and sukumawiki, they visited a local church with us and saw chickens auctioned off, they slept under a mosquito net, and they laughed at how often a cow would block our path on the road.  It was a true slice of life in Kenya, and it meant a lot to us for them to see and understand this life of ours.

When my parents came to visit, we went on safari!  No trip to Kenya is sufficient without going on safari.  Some of God's greatest creations live here in East Africa.  It's marvelous to behold, truly.  And we live less than two hours away from Maasai Mara, which makes it relatively easy and convenient to enjoy a safari and see these beautiful creatures and landscapes up close.

When my parents came to visit, it felt a little like home.  Because, as we continue to say, "Whenever we're together, we're home."  We're so thankful for the blessed time we had with them, and it was hard to say goodbye and realize anew that we won't see them again for over a year from now, but we're thankful for what we can get - and we got two weeks together!  Furthermore, before my parents left Kenya, Eli's parents bought plane tickets to visit us in a few months also, which helped to ease this goodbye since there'll be another hello coming soon.  We thank God for parents who are able and willing to come all this way, and we thank God for the memories made!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Circumcision Camp

It's exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of boys gathered together for a month, sequestered from the outside community while undergoing the rite of circumcision and beginning the transition into manhood.  It's customary around here for a boy to be circumcised sometime between 10-15 years of age.  It's also customary for a group of boys to go through the process together and they become "age-mates" (a common term here which refers to a very close friendship).  Going through this rite of passage together creates a bond between boys, and as they grow into men they usually maintain close relationships with each other because of this shared experience.

We had the privilege of attending the "Coming Out" celebration (yes, that's what it's called) after a circumcision camp last month.  The full-day affair was tantamount to a wedding celebration with hundreds of people, hours of singing and dancing, a feast for the whole crowd, a tree planting ceremony, and a couple sermons mixed in between.  One of Eli's Family Medicine residents, Elijah, is the father of one of the initiates, and he also coordinated and hosted the entire circumcision camp. Elijah performed the circumcisions on the boys, which in and of itself was a blessing since it ensured that the procedure would be done safely and correctly.  (Boys come to the hospital far too often because of complications from ill-performed procedures.)  He built a small compound behind his house for all the boys to live in for the month, and his wife cooked all the food for the 23 boys participating in the camp.  Needless to say, they were quite busy!

What was so amazing about the camp was that Elijah used this tradition as an opportunity to teach these boys about what it means to truly be a man: a man of God.  So, throughout the month, various men came to speak with the boys about God and faith and manhood, and they read Scripture together and prayed together and ate a lot of food together while they fellowshipped inside the compound.  Elijah used a God-centered approach with the purpose of raising up a new generation of godly young men.

This was one of the most beautiful things we've seen since coming to Kenya.  The American church has nothing like it, nothing to commemorate when a boy becomes a man, nothing to deliberately pull them away from the rest of the world for the sole purpose of discipling them further in their faith and shepherding them in paths of righteousness.  In an era of immaturity and outright godlessness, nothing is more encouraging than seeing boys being taught the ways of the Lord as they journey from boyhood to manhood.

We returned home thinking about our own three sons and how much we wished there was a rite of passage like this for them.  We continue reflecting on this and hope that we'll find a way in the future to pull them aside not only to focus on, but to commemorate, what is of utmost importance: choosing to live as a man of God.