This post has been a long time coming. I mean, a LONG time. It's been just over four months since we touched down in Nairobi, Kenya, and since then, so much as happened. Between the responsibilities of work, family celebrations, daily chores, Netflix marathons, classes, dinners with friends, and birthday parties, it's easy to forget, to forget how I was changed, what I learned, what I felt + experienced for those two short weeks. Life happens, you know? It just keeps moving forward, day by day. But the moments when I get to pause, click back through the photos, read journal entries, and reflect, those are the moments when everything comes back. The sandy texture of a giraffe's tongue, the feel of the leathery taut skin of an elephant and their feathery long lashes, the feel of sweet children pressing in to hug you, to cling to you, the shy curious stares of little boys + girls, the squeals of laughter and sheer delight.
Our first day in Kenya also happened to me birthday, and man, it was one memorable birthday! I've spent many birthdays abroad - I suppose that happens when you're a summer baby. In fact, in the four years Travis and I have been together, we've only really celebrated my birthday once on the actual day of. The next year we were in China, the year after he was back in China, and this year we were back on the mission field. But it makes birthdays so much more memorable, and there's nothing more fulfilling than spending a day soaking in unfamiliar tastes, smells, and sights and then loving on hundreds of precious children.
This post is packed with way too many pictures, but there were so many little moments that I just can't help but share. To adjust to the time change and shake off the jet lag, we spent a few mornings visiting local animal parks - the giraffe sanctuary and the elephant orphanage. I've never been so close to animals I've only ever seen in picture books or maybe at the zoo. We kissed giraffes and petted baby elephants and wondered at their beauty. I spent mornings simply marveling at God's creativity, his magnificent and wild imagination. There's no better way to see the fingerprints of God than to simply step outside and smell, taste, and feel the world around us.
After spending the morning with the elephant orphans, we trekked to Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Kibera is a city of its own, a place thousands of Kenyans call home. In Kibera, life happens on the street. Kids play in the mud, shops are lined with bags of potatoes, people exchange goods with one another, women hang their laundry on the line. By American standards, it is an unimaginable way to live, and yet for its people, Kibera is full of life. As we walked past the railroad tracks onward to the school, I heard the lively chit chat of neighbors, the laughter of old friends, shouts of Jambo! as we walked past homes, stores, restaurants, salons, and schools. And when we entered the schoolyard to do ministry, my heart exploded. Kids rushed toward us, either unashamedly excited to see us, or anxiously nervous to meet this unfamiliar bunch of mzungus. Soon, we were singing Sunday School songs, reading Bible stories, and playing together. And the highlight of it all was when all of the kids sang Happy Birthday to several of us on the team - my heart about exploded (again).