Monday, May 10, 2010

From the journal

With the help of a friend, I realized that my blogs where awful because I was blogging just to blog. When it comes to a journal I keep, I write in the journal only when I have a theme and idea of how it is going to look. Following the suggestion of my friend, I am going to try posting some entries from my journal.

I contemplate spiritual ideas often. Let that be a warning to you. Here goes:

Life After Death

In a lot of Christians conversations, we hear the phrase: "Life after death." To me, this is not the best way to put this idea. This idea being that after our physical death on earth we will enjoy eternal life with our Father.

Allow me pause for you to reflect on the previous paragraph. . . .

It seems that entirely too many people are entertained by the notion that a life with our Heavenly Father begins after death.

Through the life and death of Jesus Christ, we have been washed of sin, which consequence is death. Yet death is a constant fixture in our minds. We say things like: "life is too short," "the only certainty in life are death and taxes."

I started wondering what death and life after it would be life. I was thinking mostly about life after the physical death. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I shouldn't think about it. I should live in the here and now. We are to see that God's will is happening on our earth just as it is happening in heaven. After my physical death, if I have a physical death, my life will just continue. My life will be outside of time and our Father will help me understand even more about Him, but I see it being a lot like it is now. I am madly in love with out Father. I am happy right where I am.

A lot of self-proclaimed Christians profess their belief in their eternal life but are scared to death of death. This fear and belief can't be from the same place (speaking of the mind and the heart). If their fear of death is from the heart and their belief in eternal life is from the mind, then they can never sense the true love of their Father. If the belief is from the heart, there can be no fear in the mind. Truth really sets you free. Truth that Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father are crazy about you gives you unbelievable freedom!

We should not view our eternal life as life after death, but life. We can start having an amazing relationship with our loving and gracious Father now. We don't have to wait until we have, if we have, a physical death. Instead of just thinking about leaving this earth, we should be doing our part, our best part, in seeing out God's will on this earth.

To me, death is nothing. My relationship with our amazing Father will continue to flourish! Death is nothing more than a hiccup in our wonderful relationship with the ultimate Lover.

Acceptance/Accept the Fact

There are certain phrases we often hear from the religious circles and communities. These phrase ares used and heard so often that they lose their meaning and/or are changed to mean something else. Some of these phrases (or ideas) that has been on my mind is: "you need to accept the salvation of God," "you need to accept God's gift of grace." While these statements are fine, I think they have lost a lot of their initial meaning.

I saw a sticker on a matatu that said, "You must t accept God's gift of grace." The vibe I got from the sticker was weird. The sticker shocked me a little. I am human like everyone else, so I must not be the only one who was put off by the message printed on the inside of the matatu.

I was put off because it seemed like it was saying "grace is a gift you can reject." If you don't accept it, God's grace will no longer apply for you. God's grace is a certainty. God's grace is a reality. What I thought the sticker should have read was "accept the reality of God's grace." The grace of God tells me that I am loved and accepted by our Father even though I don't deserve it, and that I could never change the fact that I don't deserve it.

God loves us so much that He wants our lives to be free of burdens. He wants us to not bother ourselves with the task of earning our place with Him. Everything that He teaches us about how we are to live is for our betterment. We may not want to believe this, especially those of us who see religion only as a list of rules. Jesus tell us a lot, ". . . but I tell you the truth . . . " We see this as a new rule, but Jesus' intention was: "Look! If you would just stop what you're doing and do this, you will have so much more freedom. Your burdens will decrease and maybe disappear altogether." We don't view the task of raising children as just a set of rules for the children. We understand that even though the rules may seem meaningless to the child, they have a purpose in their life. When the child matures he will understand and even come to appreciate the rules.

If we could just accept the reality of grace, we would stop worrying about our position with our Father. If we could accept the face that we are sinners, period, and the grace of God is the only road to a place with our Father, we would be free and happier with this knowledge.

Imagine it this way: Let's say you are needing a nail in your wall for a picture frame. I said that I had a hammer and by using it it would save you a lot of pain and trouble. Let's also assume you have no other way of getting the nail in the wall. However, you don't believe me when I said that this hammer could provide so much help. You try and try on your own but you cannot even make any kind of dent in the wall.

Now, whatever you think, this hammer will, in fact, make your job easier and less stressful, especially since you can't do the job without the hammer. To successfully complete your task, you need to first accept the reality that the hammer will truly free you from getting the nail in the wall on your own.

Once we understand and accept the reality of grace, our lives will never be the same again!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Turning over a new leaf

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing girl. After reading her blog, I realized my blog is awful! Her blog didn't contain too much detail but was well ordered and had a theme. I find her blog to be humorous and interesting, and I look forward to her next entry. When it comes to my own blog, I dread updating it and wouldn't even read it if it wasn't mine. This is the case, I feel, because I am not that interested in what I am writing about. There is usually no order to my blogging, just a bunch of random happenings.

As the title of this post states: I am turning over a new leaf in my blogging life. Be prepared to be blown away by my new amazing writing skills. It's going to look really nice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finally! An update!

It's already March 14th. . . Wow. I have now lived in Kenya for four and a half months.

Kenya is a nice place. It's peaceful and quiet, and the people are friendly-- of course, this applies mostly to the village that surrounds me. I have made many friends and now meet regularly at a local mama's house for some palm wine and conversation with several locals. Palm wine is made from-- take a wild guess-- palm trees. The flowers that blossom and later produce the coconut are tied off. A day later through flower is cut and a bucket is placed under the cut. The coconut is not produced because of there tying of the flower, but continues to produce the coconut milk (but it may have several differing qualities). The milk is set aside for a day. Nothing is added. The next day you have palm wine. The next day you have stronger palm wine. The next, stronger. On the forth day it, becomes lethal. The local drink is good, but each day it sets its taste changes. Palm wine is a very important part of East African culture. When a dowry is being discussed, there must be plenty of manazi, palm wine. A wedding cannot take place without the drink.

This week will, for the most part, be review for the end term exams. Exams begin a week from tomorrow. The form one students have been impressive, but there is one student who is having trouble with the most basic of concepts. Hopefully the students will start helping each other.

With the end of the term comes a month break, at least from teaching. I have a pretty packed month ahead of me. Just a few days after school is closed, a volunteer in Western Province is coming to visit the coast to discuss some ideas regarding our program's future and advancement. While she is here, we are going to try are hand at wind surfing in the Indian Ocean. A few days later, we are taking the train to Nairobi, the capitol of Kenya, to pick up our passports from the Peace Corps office. This is because on the April 11th - 15th we will in Uganda for some white water rafting on the Nile and then bungee jumping. On April 16th, Kristiann and I have a meeting with the country director and our APCD in Nairobi regarding our project. April 19th then starts two weeks of our in-service training in Nairobi.

It's a rough life, this Peace Corps thing. . .

Well, it's bedtime here. Until next time. . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 7 in Kilifi

That's right week 7 has taken off. Midterms start on Wednesday for my secondary students tomorrow for the primary students. The past few weeks have been challenging. Along with not having a lab, it has been difficult to get through to my students. It seems like every time I have a break through, I hit another brick wall.

Yesterday was a rough day. . . . Not because it was Valentine's day -- Valentine's day always seemed lame to me, even when I was dating someone that day. It was because I didn't want to start another week. It was a good weekend. I went to the beach with Jon and Mary. We swam and just relaxed for a few hours. I think hanging out with other volunteers is making my adjustment to Kilifi harder. I really miss my friends and family. I often think of the things I could be doing with my dad. The past few years, I have wanted to take him deep sea fishing. I really want to do more things like that with him. I think of my friends often as well. Night time is a lonely time in the Peace Corps, at least for me anyways. This is usually the time I think about friends and family.

Also, the challenges I am facing at school seem almost impossible to overcome on my own. Because I'm teaching deaf students, I need more time to find teaching methods that will keep them interested and awake. Time is hard to come by when you are teaching four different subjects. I feel that, in this setting, I am only qualified to teach math, since this is my background. Chemistry, while an exiting and fun subject, is not at all my expertise. I am, however, trying to stay productive and positive. I am looking toward the future of this program. I want to see more volunteers pumped into deaf secondary school. My training was lacking. There has never been volunteers in secondary school for the deaf, so it is understandable that the training would be lacking in areas. I hope to bring up some issues during our in-service training (IST) in Nairobi. I want my work here to be as efficient as possible. I have a lot of ideas for the programs, and I truly believe I can help this program by working on future training sessions and resources for future volunteers.

Well, I need to get off line. Again send those letters!

Until next time. . .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Its Always Sunny in Kilifi, starring Beau Jones

Hey guys!

I am finishing up my third week in Kilifi. Only ten weeks more to go. I guess that isn't the attitude I should have, but I look forward to seeing the other volunteers. I am also looking forward to meeting Bob's family. Bob and his family are doing the will of God in Kenya. He has helped stared over 100 churches in Kenya. He is a delight to talk with. I got to know Bob through my aunt and uncle. Shortly after I arrived in Kenya, I received a text from Bob. He said he lived near Nairobi, knew my aunt and uncle and said he would like to meet me sometime. I exchanged texts and phone calls with Bob until the beginning of January.

I meet Bob for dinner Nairobi at a place called Java House, in the Serit Centre. I was impressed with his fluency in Swahili, but after 20 years of serving the Lord our God in Kenya you're bound to pick up a thing or two. I was inspired by his commitment to our Almighty Father. I have experienced a lot of challenges in this country so far, and can only imagine what kind of challenges Kenya was offering Bob and his family 20 years ago.

I have learned a lot in Kenya. I've learned to appreciate a lot all aspects of American culture and life. We all know that, in general, life in the US is better than life in developing countries, but we tend to overlook the simple things. The only way to understand what I'm talking is to experience it for yourself.

I am definitely a different person than when I left. I believe needed this trip to understand how good we have it in the US. I'm not just talking about starbucks on every corner or going baseball games. I'm also talking about attitudes of people. I know it is vague (sorry for that), but I can't elaborate on this, as this blog is being monitored. Shoot an email my direction and can elaborate in a personal email.

This morning was surprisingly cool. Awoke up around 5 am and was not covered in sweat like usual. Instead I was dry as a bone, and my legs where even a little chilly. That instantly putme in a good mood for the day.

I am still not in my house, but they are almost finished with it. The head master of the primary school visited my house a few weeks ago and said that he was concerned about the securityof the place. So I have been staying with another volunteer for the time being. I visited the house today and it is almost ready. The workshop at the school made bars for the two windows, and a big metal door for the front door. I wasn't too concerned about the safety of my House, but I sure feel better seeing the added security measures.

I will start moving into my new place this weekend. I need to buy a mattress, a jiko (like an charcoal grill), a pot, a wooden spoon, some basins and a few other things. I might have a shelf made as well.

My new address is :

PO Box 1320-80108
Kenya, Kilifi

Encouraging letters would be very much appreciated. Tell me about yourself, if we haven't met before.

Until next time. . . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Camping in Mombasa

It's been a while since my last post. I'm currently sitting in another volunteer's house in Kilifi. My house is still not ready. I looked at the house last week. When my principal saw the door and the windows, she demanded that they replace the bars on the windows and add a heavy metal door. The entire house is smaller than my parents' kitchen. . . . But. . . I really don't need anything bigger. I think it is an awesome house, and I couldn't be happier with it.

My school is named Pwani Secondary School for the Deaf. Pwani is a word in swahili meaning "coast" or "coastal" depending on the context. We are only two forms (grades) strong, though the form 1 (9th grade) students have yet to arrive. My students were only
taught a third of last year's material in mathematics, and have yet to begin form 1 chemistry or physics. I have a lot on my plate. At least I don't have to look for service projects, right?

There are some things I am having to get use to here in the Kenyan schools. One of them being every time students see me carrying books, they run up to me and grab the books from me and take them from me.
Also, when the 5 foot tall deputy head master sees me carrying (even one book) his will call a student to carry it for me. School politics is another thing that takes some getting use to. I'll just leave it at that. I'd rather not explain this right now.

There was no electricity (or running water) today at school. Let me rephrase that: there was no electricity in Kilifi today. Roughly, every Tuesday and Thursday the town of Kilifi thinks it's a great idea to save a little by cutting the power. I foresee this messing with
future lab experiments.

I'm going to Mombasa on Saturday with public health volunteer, Pat. We are going to meet up with Jon, an ICT volunteer, to go camping near the beach just south of Mombasa. Another volunteer, in the business
sector, is working with a campsite. I excited about meeting other Peace Corps volunteers and seeing more of Kenya. I'm also looking forward to taking a dip in the ocean. The Indian Ocean feels great
around Kilifi and Mombasa.

One last note:
My older brother, Chris, graduates with his doctorate degree in May. I'm so proud of him. But I think I'm most proud of him because he doesn't care about the title the degree brings. The coming title doesn't seem to be going to his head. Chris is a great friend of mine, and I often wish he could be in Kenya to experience all these new things with me. I can't wait to share a pitcher with him when I return to the States. I also hope we can travel abroad together
sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Outward Bound

Today 25 secondary school children arrived at the Outward Bound facility in Loitokitok. They are going to help in creating a mock secondary school for the Peace Corps Traineers. Since I will be teaching at Pwani Secondary School for the Deaf, 5 of the students are deaf. The children arrived shortly after a huge rain cloud gathered over Loitokitok. Unlike Arkansas, when it starts to rain in Kenya, it doesn't stop for awhile. And in Loitokitok, when it rains it gets extremely slippery. (I fell twice). The matatu's carrying the children ended up getting stuck. Luckily a Peace Corps vehicle came to rescue.

After dinner, we gathered outside of the "volunteer/trainee" house on the Outward Bound grounds. We played "bite the bag". This is a game where we all get in a circle around a paper bag. One person says their name and then hops on one foot to the paper bag and tries to bend down and pick up the bag with their teeth. Then they pick someone from a different school to state their name and try to "bite the bag."

After the game, we broke the children into groups. We thought that since the deaf children were small in number they could help a group of hearing students learn Kenyan Sign Language. The students were taught the manual alphabet, family members, and how to introduce themselves. They were even given sign names. Tonight was a great night! The students will be here until Saturday, so the memorable events have only begun!!!!!

I'm going to get some sleep, now. 5 am will come early, and tomorrow will start another very busy week.