First Christmas in Kenya

Decorating Christmas cookies helped get us in a festive mood!
Decorating Christmas cookies helped get us in a festive mood!

“Hey, wait for me!” I heard from the kitchen.  I smiled as one of our Kenyan neighbor boys hurried to catch up to Benji.  They were all headed to the field for soccer!  While that isn’t an unusual event around here, it would be totally unusual in December in Wisconsin.  No gloves or hats or winter coats needed here! (although sometimes it gets down to 60 and then the locals wear stocking caps and coats).

We just had to get a pic! The Santas also asked to take a pic with their phone.
We just had to get a pic! The Santas also asked to take a pic with their phone.

I guess that is the main difference we’ve experienced – we missed the usual December smells of winter and pine trees, sights of houses decorated and lit up, the feel of heavy sweaters and winter coats, and sounds of snowblowers and festivities.  It’s not that Kenyans don’t celebrate, they do.  It’s just different.   The big shopping malls did have Christmas trees and Santas and even decorations to purchase.  But even with that, we did struggle a bit – it just didn’t “feel” like Christmas.

Our safari van!
Our safari van!

God always has a way of directing our paths, of bringing us folks to love on and be loved on while we are away from family.  This holiday season was no exception!  A missionary friend invited us to join her and her friend to a three day trip to Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya – right over my and Phil’s birthdays (20th and 21st).

Benji took this photo - so glad for a good zoom on our camera!
Benji took this photo – so glad for a good zoom on our camera!
Mt. Kilimanjaro made a brief appearance early in the morning.
Mt. Kilimanjaro made a brief appearance early in the morning.

What an amazing trip!  To see wild animals in their natural habitat – places we’ve only read about until now – was thrilling.  The scenery – being 25 miles from Mt. Kilimanjaro – was breathtaking and invigorating!  The boys loved the wind in their faces as we bumped along the dirt roads in the park.  What a way to start off our Christmas break!

Sue also made homemade eggnog! Yum!
Sue also made homemade eggnog! Yum!

On Christmas Eve we joined veteran missionaries, Denny and Sue.  Denny is a retired AIM AIR pilot who regaled us with stories of Sudan, Egypt and Kenya.  They just reached their 36th year in Africa – wow!  They continue serving God in evangelism and discipleship to Muslims and refugees.  Birthday cake for Jesus, white elephant gift exchange and wonderful fellowship rounded out the evening.

Phil played guitar while we sang Christmas carols and read Scripture together.
Phil played guitar while we sang Christmas carols and read Scripture together.

After a meaningful Christmas morning, included phone calls from the States (it was their

The Christmas tree was one of the items included in our household of stuff we bought - what a treat!
The Christmas tree was one of the items included in our household of stuff we bought – what a treat!

Christmas Eve night!), reading the Christmas story, and opening a few gifts, we welcomed our missionary neighbors, Mark and Terri, along with her cousin and family for dinner.  What a privilege to host!

Phil had off from work until Jan. 4, so we were able to do some fun things as a family around Nairobi – including a mall that had a fabulous playground and splash pad!  Just seemed odd to be in a swimsuit at the end of December!

Lots of food and fun with other missionary friends and neighbors.

Lots of food and fun with other missionary friends and neighbors.

We hosted a New Year’s Eve party for a few friends and that was also a fun time.  The boys insisted on banging pots and pans at midnight in keeping with family tradition – and the noisemaker horns I found played a big part in the evening fun!  Fortunately the neighbors didn’t mind! 🙂

Gaz and his sister made sure we all had bracelets that fit.
Gaz and his sister made sure we all had bracelets that fit.

On a walk down to the market, just before New Years, I met up with a man named Gaz, who I had purchased some artwork from a few times.  He asked me to bring the boys back on New Years Day because he wanted to make them bracelets.  He surprised Phil and I with bracelets too!  He works hard with children and young adults in the slums, teaching them how to paint and bead.  It’s been great to get to know him!

Overall, even though things “felt” different for us here in Nairobi and we truly missed our families, we had a full Christmas.  Jesus is the same, no matter if we are in Kenya or the United States.

November: thankful moments galore!

We try to practice thankfulness all year round, not just in November.  However, last month we were ever so thankful for answered prayer!

Nov. 2 – our work permits arrived!  This was a huge answer to prayer!  Phil’s passport was immediately sent out to Mombasa (on the coast of Kenya) to get our crates cleared out of customs and storage.

Our long awaited crates! Stuffed with clothes, tools, books, piano, toys and more!
Our crates stuffed with clothes, tools, books, piano, toys and more!

And then we waited.  And prayed.  And thanked God for a safe arrival of our crates.

Nov. 8 – A cousin of one of our missionary friends arrived in Nairobi with a special surprise

Happy soccer guys!
Happy soccer guys!

for the boys!  A special soccer ball that won’t pop on the thorn bushes!  They were so excited and it’s come in very handy!

Nov. 16 – Phil texted me “our crates arrived at the airport!”  Oh happy day!  He and Billy, a Kenyan intern mechanic, unpacked his tools from the cardboard crates and loaded our totes and boxes onto a truck.  His boss said – TAKE THEM HOME!  What a joyous Monday!  Everything arrived in tact (although our popcorn popper’s bottom was a bit dented).

A myriad of emotions flowed through all of us as we unpacked totes, laughing at things we brought with us, lamenting at the things we thought we brought, but didn’t; cringing at the amount of things piled up on the kitchen table, wondering where it would all go; crying with relief because we were not charged ANY import duty fees (which is very abnormal), just storage and processing fees (still a hefty sum of $3,700 but no where near the amount it COULD have been – thank you Kenya government man!)

The shipment arrived just in time for our first major holiday in Africa – Thanksgiving!  We have a family tradition to write down what we are thankful for and put it into our Blessing Binder.  What a joy to have that binder and reminisce about Thanksgivings past.

Nov. 20 – Immigration office day.  Phil and I headed down to Nyayo House in downtown Nairobi to file for our foreigner’s cards, Kenyan ID’s.  We were so grateful that AIM has Kenyan staff who know the process and accompanied us!  After being fingerprinted on all 10 fingers, paying 2000 shillings (about $20), and getting all the papers to the right office window, the process was over.

Now we wait for the cards to arrive.

Nov. 20 – Car switcharoo day!  The big 8 seater suv we often borrowed was headed to the car lot and the 5 seater rental car was needed by someone else.  What to do about a car? God is the master of details!  An AIM AIR family on home assignment just happened to have a 7 seater Mistral (suv) at their Nairobi home, not far from our house, and they don’t return until the end of March.  We are now renting their Mistral while we look for a car of our own.  And EJ has started driving it a bit, too!  The generosity of all the AIM families has been an encouragement and blessing!

Michael takes a snapshot! Turkey, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple pie, pecan pie muffins are just a few goodies we made!
Michael takes a snapshot! Turkey, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple pie, pecan pie muffins are just a few goodies we made!

Nov. 26 – Thanksgiving Day!  It’s not a holiday in Kenya, so Phil still had to work.  But – Pope Francis was visiting Nairobi that week and it just “happened” to fall on Thanksgiving Day that he was traveling through the city so much that the Nairobi government declared a holiday to honor him and minimize traffic  – and Phil got half a day off!  We were able to make some yummy dishes and have a fun family night.

Nov. 28-Dec. 2 – AIM Spiritual Renewal Conference in Kijabe, Kenya!  We traveled about an hour north of Nairobi to Rift Valley Academy, the location of

Eight families gathered for Thanksgiving at a home in Kijabe. The boys loved playing in all the GRASS!
Eight families gathered for Thanksgiving at a home in Kijabe. The boys loved playing in all the GRASS!

the conference.  We met up with a number of families who had been at Orientation with us back in July (many of them are based in that area) to hold a real Thanksgiving Feast.  Soo thankful for these friends who have become like family.  Our Thanksgiving felt complete after this – fulfilled in some way. The boys had a blast with the other kids that they had spent 3 weeks with before – like long lost cousins! The conference was a good time as well!


Pumpkin pie but no whip cream. No one remembered to whip it! No such thing as a container of Cool Whip here. Next time!

All in all, November was truly a month to be thankful for!  Thank you for joining with us in prayer and thanksgiving!

To give to our car fund, click here!

Preacher Michael

The boys were playing soccer the other day and got to talking with a few of the neighborhood boys about faith and religion. One of them asked if Michael was a Muslim. “No, I’m a Christian.”

The boy responded somewhat mockingly, “Preacher Michael! If you are a Christian, then you should preach to us.” Michael grabbed hold of the opportunity and told the boys that Jesus loves them, that He died for their sins and rose again.

One of them was Muslim.  Even though there was laughter and mild mocking, I know the boys are listening – and watching.

Each month we have to pay a security fee – Francis came by last night to collect it.  He told Phil and I that he enjoys seeing the boys play.  Even when we think no one is watching, they are.

A few of the regular boys who congregate to play ball.

It’s not easy being the new kid on the block.  It’s not easy being the “mzungu” kids (white kids).

Pray for Andrew, Ben, Michael and Matthew as they are lights on the soccer field – and that they can always be ready to share the Hope that is in them.

Pray for the neighbor boys’ hearts to be open to Jesus.


House help

House help.  It means to hire someone who helps around the house.  I knew this was an expected part of life in Kenya, especially in Nairobi, but I didn’t expect the myriad of emotions involved!

Sarah is our much loved house help!
Sarah is our much loved house help!

Meet Sarah.  She was introduced to me shortly after we arrived.  Her first day with us I felt awkward. Embarrassed.  Inept.  Curious.  Excited.  Unsure.  Expectant.  While Sarah speaks Swahili and Kikomba, she is also pretty fluent in English.  So when I asked her if she could make tortillas, she said “Ndiyo!”  That means yes!  She can read recipes with little assistance, organizes her day to get everything accomplished, works hard, doesn’t complain, has a cheerful attitude, and is an amazing cook!

Those first few times I hovered.  I felt a bit useless in my own house as she swept and mopped the floors (which get really dusty in just a day), did the laundry (everything is hung on the clothesline but we do have washer!), did all the dishes, cooked meals, made chai, cleaned vegetables (water is not safe for us to drink or wash veggies/fruit in, so we have to soak them in a special solution and then rinse in filtered water), etc. etc.  I kept thinking, “I can do that” or “I SHOULD be doing that” or “I’m secretly glad she is doing that but I feel bad about thinking that way!” (example: I hate cutting up a fresh pineapple, so we tend to have pineapple only when Sarah is here.)

But slowly, slowly I’ve realized that not only is Sarah a huge help to our busy household, her twice weekly presence allows me to focus on the kids’ schooling more, catch up on emails without worrying about laundry and supper prep, spend time with God, take a walk to the market, visit with a friend, have a language class, get to other tasks that I keep putting off.  You get the idea.

While I still tend to hover a little, Sarah and I have become comfortable with each other.  The boys love her cooking skills and are grateful for the two days a week they don’ t have to help with household chores!  We are still in the “experimental” stage, as Sarah calls it – trying new recipes, finding foods we like or don’t like, exploring Kenyan cuisine with her expertise.  Matthew likes to watch her deft fingers make chapati or tortillas or cinnamon rolls.

I still have to plan meals and make sure we have ingredients on hand for what Sarah will make, and decide what things need to be cleaned, ironed, washed, etc.  Tuesdays and Fridays are Sarah days.

The other day I was purusing a cookbook and had written “Chicken Divan” on my meal wish list – thinking about

Sarah comes on Tuesdays and Fridays.  She is a blessing!
Sarah comes on Tuesdays and Fridays. She is a blessing!

when we might try that recipe.  The following morning Sarah was here and she said, “Do you like Chicken Divan?  It has broccoli and chicken?  Do you have recipe?”  Um, YES!  Great minds think alike.  So, if you are in the area next Tuesday, come on over for Chicken Divan.  Sarah is cooking!

Clock shopping 101

by Phil

Our neighbor and fellow AIM AIR missionary, Tom, took me to the store recently to get a stove, coffee pot, and wall clock.  Just getting to the store on the Nairobi streets is an adventure in itself.  Once we got the Nakumatt (a Walmart-type store), I found the coffee pots first.  I picked one out in 15 minutes, about average for me.

The oven took a bit longer, for the obvious reason that it involves a larger amount of money.  I wanted to get a gas stove top and oven, since power outages here are pretty common.   The only models that had gas ovens were either the cheapest quality or were at the very top of my price range. Tough call.  I like to spend less, but poor quality is unacceptable.  The clerks in the appliance department did not necessarily know their products.  When I explained I wanted a gas oven, they pointed to a couple other models.  Tom and I could see that these were obviously electric.  But rather than argue, we just kept looking.  I finally decided to choose quality over cheapness (is that a real word?).  Ok, next!  On to the clock section.  I thought it would be easy.

ClockI just wanted a plain, battery operated clock, easy to read.  After finding the right aisle, I noticed that there were many clocks to pick from, display models propped up against a stack of thin, plain clock boxes that I assumed were the same as the display.

“Great, piece of cake!” I told myself.


I picked up the first model and thought, “Sure, this one will work just fine. Now to grab one in a box.” The first box had a different style clock than the model I had picked out.  The second, third, and fourth boxes were empty. Ok, not so easy.

I moved on to the next display model that caught my eye.  It seemed to be in the wrong place, because the clocks in those boxes were either not the same or were empty. At about this time I noticed that the boxes actually had a small diagram of the clock on one corner, which helped a little. This same box opening sequence happened at least one more time before I finally found a box with an acceptable clock in it; though it still didn’t match its display model.

Picking out the $6 clock was almost more exhausting than the stove!  Shopping is just different here in Nairobi.  Things we have taken for granted in American stores become obvious when looking for the “simplest” things.  However, we will learn and adjust – give ourselves more time to find things and not be surprised when the boxes are empty!  Slowly slowly, as they say here, we will figure things out.

The sparkle ladies

Today I met my Kenyan prayer sister, one who wears a red hat and sparkles with the love of Jesus.  One I may never see again – but a sister none the less.  Her name is Leah (Lay-ah).Leah

My group visited the Unique Mother’s group in Lanet, near Nakuru.  In Kenya, single mothers are looked on as outcasts in society and in the church.  People fear them because they think the ladies will steal their husbands.  They are not allowed to participate in church, even if they are believers.  They are hopeless and feel worthless.

Jane and Nancy have very different stories, yet they are joined by circumstances.  They now have a group of 14 ladies of all ages and stories, who meet twice a month to pray, encourage each other, make crafts to sell, and donate money to the group.  The money is used for the ladies in the group – sometimes it is to purchase something, sometimes it is for a small loan.  Nancy is the treasurer and they keep track of everything.  They work hard to support themselves and their children – to pay for their school fees and help them go to college.  When they first started meeting, everyone chipped in 20 shillings – enough to buy everyone in the group a spoon for their house.  The next item was a cup.  Then a flask.

Nancy, Leah, Jane, Susan, Margaret
Nancy, Leah, Jane, Susan, Margaret

But it took much longer for her church to really embrace her.  As she became more confident in Who she belonged to, she started praying with other ladies like herself.  She felt less anxious.The ladies love each and pray for unity among themselves.  They shared that slowly, the church has accepted them as real people, as ones who have something to contribute.  Jane is now a Sunday School teacher, in the choir, and a youth mentor.  That could not happen before.  When we asked her when this change came about, she said a pastor came to her home where she was hiding from society.  He shared with her about her identity in Christ, and that she didn’t have to hide.


Margaret and some of the jewelry the ladies make.
Margaret and some of the jewelry the ladies make.

Women have little worth here in Kenya.  For many, they are below the household cattle – only good for having children.  For a women not to have a husband is a shame, lower than low.  It is very hard for them to live.Gradually, after the Unique Mother’s was formed, the church began to accept them.  Her neighbors have become friends, instead of shunning her.

Unique Mothers has met a huge need in this rural Kenyan community – and the group efforts are spreading to other small groups – to bring support, a means of income, and confidence in who they are in Christ – and slowly, slowly, change is coming into the mindsets of others.

It was beautiful to hear their stories.  As we sat in Susan’s home drinking chai, I kept thinking that they were like delicate flowers, hounded and beaten by the elements – blossoms broken and dejected.  But Christ has mended their blossoms – made them stand tall in dignity and respect.  Their flowers are brilliant and open, faces towards the Son.  Others take notice and even come to them for advice.

When I shared that with a few of them (in abbreviated form), Leah nodded in agreement – and said “oh, we sparkle!”

“Yes!” I cried.  “You sparkle!  You are the sparkle girls!”  She laughed with me and hugged me tight – and whispered in my ear, “You will be my prayer partner.  I will pray for you and you can pray for me.”

Franky, me, Nancy, Leah behind, Jane, Susan, Kelly, Margaret
Franky, me, Nancy, Leah behind, Jane, Susan, Kelly, Margaret

“Yes” I said.  “I love your red hat too.”  She immediately took it off and smashed it onto my head, wanting me to have it.  But it was too small – I laughed and said “I have a big head!  It looks much better on you.”

We prayed for the ladies and they prayed for us.  We purchased some jewelry and small craft items that the women made.  I ended up choosing two necklaces – both made by Margaret.  Before she joined the group, she did not feel worth and was hopeless.  Now she smiles with inner joy and her face lights up with Jesus.  You can SEE the hope in her.

My heart was drawn to these women who have not only survived a culture that does not value women, much less single women, but who have thrived and are full of the joy of the Lord.

Pray for Jane, who teaches 50 children in a school every day with only one helper, for Nancy, a grandmother who is the treasurer of the group, for Susan, a grandmother who cares for six of her grandchildren, for Leah, who is “just a member” of Unique Mothers, and for Margaret, who is concerned for her handicapped daughter.  And for the other members of the group – that they can take the principles they have learned and help begin other groups like this – and for the church to break out of the Kenyan mindset and see each individual as God sees them.

Jane gifted Abbi, who is returning to Congo, with a handbag to take back to her church in Congo - the bag is to be used for offerings.
Jane gifted Abbi, who is returning to Congo, with a handbag to take back to her church there – the bag is to be used for offerings.  Abbi mentioned later that there are many single mothers in her village due to war.

July 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Greetings from Nairobi!

At the Atlanta airport with our luggage.  Between everyone in our group there were over 150 pieces!
At the Atlanta airport with our luggage. Between everyone in our group there were over 150 pieces!

We made it safely in the wee hours of the night on Friday, July 10.  Our first international crossing-the-ocean flight as a family!  We met a Kenyan family on the second leg of the trip who had been assigned seats all over the plane – including their three small children.  As it turned out, folks gave up their seats so they could be in the same area and our three big boys, who were sitting in a row together next to me, gave up their seats so the dad and two of the kids could sit together.  We met up again at the baggage claim area and they thanked us profusely.  Turns out they are believers in Jesus!

Our first few days have been spent at Mayfield Guesthouse (see photo for meal table), At the tablerecovering from the lack of sleep, jet lag, altitude change, etc.  It took a good three days to feel somewhat human again.  Michael and Matthew had a day of throwing up and headaches, a few sore throats, but we’re all feeling much better now.

Today – Tuesday, July 14, we head to Nakuru, Kenya for Africa Based Orientation.  It’s a three week course full of classes, field trips and cultural learning.  We traveled to Kenya with 7 other families, and they will be at ABO with us, along with a number of other folks who have joined us here at Mayfield. All of us with a heart for Africa, serving in different areas and different places.  Internet will be slower there, so I’ll try to make a few Facebook posts, but I am not counting on much else.

After ABO, we’ll come back to Nairobi for language learning.  We’ll be staying at a transition house in our new neighborhood (we got a peek at it already!) during the language learning time, getting our new house set up with a stove, furniture, etc.  One of the biggest things we’ve been learning is to be flexible.

Thank you for praying for us – for giving to us – for encouraging us as we go.  We have a lot to learn yet – but we are so excited to be on Kenyan soil at last!  The boys are doing fabulous with all the younger kids in our group (there are a ton of them!) – one of the moms thought they were seasoned missionary kids.  They really are seasoned – just new to Africa.

So many things that we have gone through and experienced in the past have come to the surface in positive ways the last few days.  God is faithful!

Many blessings to you, please keep in touch!  Please don’t stop giving and praying.  We are counting on all of you!  We are in this together!

Phil and EJ Blohm

Andrew, Ben, Michael and Matthew

Roses, leaks and those kinds of weeks

A few weeks ago was one of those weeks. You know the kind, where nothing seems to go quite right. A knock at the door Monday night revealed a leaking water pump into the downstairs apartment. The couch legs broke, the fridge continued leaking water, extra-long dentist appointments, busy schedules, unanswered questions, overwhelmed by details, eye glasses arrived with wrong prescription, and the tool box Phil ordered was dented and unusable.
All in one week.

Blossom of hopeThen on Friday evening we discovered the rose in the front yard, on a deformed bush we thought was dead. Hope breathed into our hearts as we smelled the sweet fragrance. Life in missions isn’t always the adventure and excitement we imagine, yet God can take something deformed and “dead” and turn it into beauty.


The toolbox? We returned it with no hassle and got a sale price on a new one!

May 2015

Crossing the finish line
Airline tickets are being purchased, packing has begun in earnest, and contacts are being made in Nairobi for the next phase of our journey. Excitement is mounting as we have less than a month of Orientation left!

Preparing the mountain air strip.
Preparing the mountain air strip.

Phil will join the Orientation crew for Mountain Week, June 8-17, which is a culmination of everything learned so far. They will head into the Appalachian mountains, where the pilots will practice on mountain airstrips set up especially for this trip. Phil’s job as lead mechanic on the five airplanes (and one helicopter) will include a lot of decision making, trouble shooting, delegation, and inspection to be sure all the planes are safe to fly.

Turbine Engine Course

Phil’s bucket list included taking a heavy maintenance turbine engine course, to better prepare him to work on AIMAIR turbine planes (there are 3).

Cross it off the list!  A Turbine Engine company came to JAARS for a week long course in all things turbine.  I find Phil’s nose in the manual on a regular basis. ☺

We’ll be living in the Ngummo Central neighborhood of Nairobi. It’s not far from the AIM AIR hangar, a golf course, railroad tracks, a gigantic slum, and a market.

Mountain week – June 8-17
Orientation graduation – June 19
Farewell Potluck/Open House at 1st Assembly in Waupaca, WI 12:30-3:30 p.m. – June 28
Leave Wisconsin for AIM headquarters—July 5
Leave for Nairobi (from Atlanta) – July 9
Africa Based Orientation—July 14 –Aug. 4 in Nakuru, Kenya

The monthly amount we need for our Kenya budget is just $435 away from being fully funded. Every gift helps!
Your partnership is a HUGE blessing and answer to prayer. Thank you for investing in our lives, and also the lives of the African peoples we will meet soon.
Pledge cards and initial checks made out to AIM can be sent to us until June 24.
Phil and EJ Blohm
PO BOX 248
Waxhaw, NC 28173

Africa Inland Mission, PO Box 3611, Peachtree City, GA 30269

Hauling toolchestsLook for this picture of Phil and Andrew on an AIM collage, which captures a day in the life of missionaries who serve with Africa Inland Mission.


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We want to stay connected while we are in Kenya!

EJ's Monday mornings are spent with these ladies, all aviation wives.
EJ’s Monday mornings are spent with these ladies, all aviation wives.

April 2015

Pre-field Orientation Begins

Boys pose at JAARS signWe arrived in North Carolina at the JAARS campus late on March 1, with just one day to unpack before Orientation began.

JAARS is the aviation/media branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  The 600 acre campus provides missionary housing and has already been a great place of connections.

Phil feels like a sponge – absorbing information every day and then wringing it out in applicable ways in the shop.  The instructors have all served overseas, totaling countless hours of experience to glean from.

Seven men began TO with Phil, including one from Hong Kong and one from Indonesia. Phil and TO guys Because the TO staff personalize each man’s syllabus, Phil is gaining experience on planes he’ll be working on with Africa Inland Mission.

Being the only mechanic going through TO, Phil has a lot of one on one attention!

In late March the group went on a field trip, learning how to explore potential air strips, how to measure one out, etc.    In June they will go on a 10 day mountain trip.

Prayer and Praise

  • Safe travels to North Carolina
  • EJ has weekly ladies group
  • Boys involved with homeschool gym class
  • Older boys in job mentor program through JAARS
  • Pray for the remaining support to come in
  • Pray for all the details – visas, work permits, shipping, etc.
  • Pray for Phil and other orientees during the next few months

Upcoming dates

Phil’s Mountain trip – June 8-17

Orientation graduation – June 19

Commissioning service in WI – June 28

Leave for Nairobi (from GA) – July 9

We have 10% of our budget left to raise.  If you would like to join our partnership team, click here to go to our Support page.