Sunday, October 30, 2005

Studies, studies, and more studies

I am nearing the end of my first term here at NEGST and am really enjoying my classes and all that I am learning. I am especially enjoying the community life on campus. The student body is so diverse – for example, in one of my classes we are divided into small groups for papers – in my group, there is a Kenyan, a Sudanese, a Liberian, and then me. It’s so much fun to be exposed to so many different cultures and people from so many different backgrounds.

Most of my time over the past three weeks has been spent reading and writing papers. I’ve been a bit frustrated this week – the work load is so much that it’s really hard to get involved in practical ministry at the same time. One of my professors commented that NEGST is good at training scholars but not missionaries, in that there are not many opportunities or training in terms of practical ministry skills. I am really praying about how I can make my time at NEGST more holistic so that I will graduate with skills to effectively minister to people and not just a lot of head knowledge.

One opportunity I’ve had to get involved in ministry is with my church here. I had a meeting with the youth pastor about a week ago and he challenged me to find a way to get involved in the church while I am at NEGST. I’ve been involved with the youth at the church (ages 18-35) and the young adults group invited me to be a part of their leadership team. There are also people at church who are interested in starting an outreach to a slum community that is about 2 km from the church. This is the area that I’d really like to be involved in but there is nothing started up yet, so I’ve decided to start with the young adults leadership and hopefully in the next several months there will be a team of people ready to start something in the slum community. I attended my first leadership meeting this morning and we’ll be going on a retreat next month to plan for the coming year. I’ve also continued to stay involved at Grace Children’s Center, a children’s home with 17 HIV positive children and 35 HIV negative children. I visit them every weekend, and recently I’ve had some friends from church who have been coming with me.

I had some drama about two weeks ago when my purse was stolen. I was meeting with a friend in a very small restaurant. The place was practically empty because we were there in the middle of the afternoon and my purse was on the floor at my feet. We were sitting in the corner so there weren’t even people walking past us. When we got up to leave, my bag was gone. We couldn’t figure out how someone could have taken it without us seeing, but we remembered there were two people who came in, sat on stools to our right, and then left after a short time without buying anything. Another woman in the restaurant said she noticed them walking very quickly out of the place. I lost my keys, phone, wallet, bank cards, credit cards, drivers license, international drivers license, and about $7 (thankfully my passport was safely in my room!) I was able to get new keys and another phone line, and I’m working on getting all of my documents replaced.

We just finished our 7th week of classes so there are only 3 weeks to go – it’s gone by so quickly! I’ll be coming home for the December holiday. I arrive in Washington DC on Dec. 4th and I’ll be leaving to come back to Nairobi on Dec. 28th. I’ll be traveling to NC the 6th-11th. I am really excited to come home and to see many of you, so please let me know if you’ll be around DC or NC on those dates.

This afternoon I am going on a “class field trip” to a debate between Christians and Muslims, but before that I have to get back to the library to continue to work on one of my term papers. I’m writing on John Chrysostom as a prophetic voice against economic injustice in the 4th century church – it’s really interesting!

Please pray for me - my studies are getting really intense as the end of the term approaches. Please pray as I begin to get involved in leadership at my church and that I’ll have an opportunity soon to get involved in the nearby slum community. Please also pray for the students on campus – the deadline for paying the remainder of the school fees in Monday and there are many students who are trusting the Lord but have no idea where this money will come from.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Adjusting to Academic Life

I am in the middle of my fourth week of classes here at NEGST and I think I have finally settled into academic life. I am really enjoying my classes, although the work load is more intense than I had expected. I am taking 17 hours this semester, and my courses are Introduction to Islam, Early and Medieval Church History, Hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation), Biblical Theology of Missions, and Power Encounter (which deals with the supernatural, confronting witchcraft, the power of the gospel, etc.). In addition, I am continuing with my Swahili classes once a week.

I have settled into campus life and am enjoying the community here. The majority of students, professors, and staff stay on campus, which gives the school a community feeling and great opportunities to get to know the other students and staff. I am one of the youngest students here, and many of the students are married with children. The majority of staff and students are African, but are from all over the continent. In addition to classes, we also have chapel services 3 days a week, small groups within our departments, and a small group Bible study where all of the students, staff, and faculty are divided into groups of about 10. We have playing fields where students can be found playing volleyball, soccer, and basketball almost every evening.

We even have small “shambas” which are garden plots where we can grow our own vegetables. I was not planning on signing up for one because I don’t know how to grow anything, but one of the Kenyan students convinced me to sign up and promised to teach me. He told me that I should obtain the asset first, and then figure out to use it.

This past weekend, I went to three nyama chomas (goat barbecues). Nyama chomas are very popular in Kenya and I don’t think there can be a proper celebration without slaughtering a goat. On Friday, the missions department had a nyama choma to welcome all of the new students in the missions department, on Saturday the school hosted one to welcome all of the new students on campus, and on Sunday I went to one after church with several of my friends from church. So I definitely had my fill of goat this weekend! On Saturday, some of the guys even taught me how to roast the meat so I was in charge of one of the grills for a while. They eat every part of the goat, including the intestines and all of the organs. I still have not tried all of the parts but am getting a little more adventurous – this weekend I ate the kidney and it was actually pretty good.

I have also been visiting several community projects in the poor areas around campus. I was hoping to have time to get involved in one of the projects here, but now I don’t think I will realistically have time for this during the term. This past Saturday I visited a Christian project for orphaned and vulnerable girls. Every Saturday they have a feeding program and tutoring classes. I went with a friend who lives in the area and we thought we were just going to observe and see what it is all about. But the guy in charge divided the kids up into 2 groups and left us with about 30 children from ages 5-11 and told us to teach them for 2 hours. We just looked at each other and laughed because we had not prepared anything, and I do not know how to teach math or science in Swahili. So instead we just sang songs, prayed, and taught them about Jesus. Then we played games with them until their lunch was ready.

Please continue to pray for me as I adjust to student life, and pray for my fellow classmates as well. There are several men here who could not afford to bring their families with them, so they live far away from their wives and children. There are also several students who are struggling to pay school fees, which are pretty high for African standards. In addition, for many students English is their second or even third language. I cannot even imagine doing this level of study in a language other than English, and I know that many of them are really struggling with the readings and writing papers,

Thank you for you prayer support!