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.
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. 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!
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
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!
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.
I 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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), recovering 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!
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.
Then 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!
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!
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
Look 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. www.aiminaday.aimint.org/usa
We 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. 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
It’s been a roller coaster of emotions in the last week as we prepared to move from central WI – freezing weather – to Waxhaw, NC. Phil’s dad and his friend Jim drove the pick up truck pulling a Uhaul trailer for us. By the end of the two day drive, our second son Benji says “Hitches, we install. I am SO SICK of seeing the back of that trailer!”
Haha. We battled the weather, the mountains, and small glitch in the trailer lights, but we made it in late on Sunday, March 1.
Matthew and Michael both have cough/stuffy nose that Andrew had a week or more ago. Could be weather too. We’ve had two different days of really nice sunny weather, so boys want to wear shorts and tshirt – and I say NO! Wear a sweatshirt cuz it’s still chilly – it just doesn’t feel like it compared to WI. 40’s and 50’s is still sweatshirt weather for this Momma!
Lots of red clay here – Matthew’s nice white tennis shoes are not white anymore. Glad we brought the boys’ rain boots. Our driveway is gravel, so that helps a little with the mud. Reminds me of when we lived in southern Kentucky though, so it’s not completely unfamiliar. We took a walk near the fishing pond – called Crystal Lake. Which is interesting because there is a Crystal Lake in our hometown and we used to travel Crystal Lake Road all the time. Only this little late doesn’t look so Crystal and someone told me that there are poisonous snakes near the water, so that is enough for me to avoid it.
The airport hangar is just a 4 min walk from our house, so that is nice. Everything shuts down here at noon for lunch – a full hour! So Phil can come home from lunch at this point. I take each day as it comes and don’t assume anything. I’ve learned that much from being involved with aviation.
As for the Orientation itself, he’s the only full time maintenance orientee – although some of the other guys are pilot/mechanic. They are doing a bunch of stuff all together in mornings, and then Phil will do more maintenance type projects and things in afternoon. The main instructor is out sick this week with flu, so the schedule has been flipped a bit. He’s trying to read ahead on the classes that will be crammed into next week.
Our house is pretty big – I am lost with 3 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms! After having a cabin with only two bedrooms and one bath, we feel rich! The hallway from the bedroom area to the dining room is quite long – I did 10 lunges this morning to get down it. Haha!
The kitchen is open to the dining room – very small. Can’t open the fridge if you’re at the stove. Seriously a one person place. BUT – the sink overlooks the backyard, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve had a window by the sink. And I told the boys there is just enough room for them to keep up with the dishes for me and I won’t interfere.
We moved things around a bit to get my keyboard in the living room. Now I’m glad that we did. I almost left it with our folks.
Across the street is a little woods, and then to the right is the Olive Branch building, which is where the youth meet on a weekly basis and the pool is. To the right of the that is a playground, basketball court, volleyball, picnic tables, open fields, and the fenced off areas of the runways. Here is a pdf link to a map. We are at the top left side of the map in Rossi House.
We have appts here at the Clinic for the boys next week to have their blood typed – we need to know what kind they are. Then on 17th I go in for immunization consult – they will go over all our immunizations and see what else we need. They offer services pretty cheaply, so that is nice. Phil got handed a white slip this morning when he got to the hanger – random drug testing for those over in aviation department. He and two other guys had to go over to clinic.
There is a Boutique here – all free stuff that we can borrow or keep – clothes, baskets, fancy dishes, toys, etc. I visited today and found a a skirt and some baskets to use. There is a family library on site as well – behind our house and down the hill a little bit. Very easy walk. They also have a food distribution program – a couple times a week they’ve have donations brought in from Panera or Costco. That will seriously help with our food costs – having 3 teenagers is not an easy deal! 🙂
Having a guy over for lunch today who works with the teenagers in a mentoring program. I warned him that we might just have peanut butter and jelly, and it didn’t seem to phase him much. haha. They have a mentor on the job type thing where the kids can learn while they help. We’ll see how that goes – and if the boys are interested at all. I need them to have something to look forward to. Youth group for high school is at the Olive Branch place on Thurs nights. Maybe mike can tag along. Middle school youth group meets on Friday nights, but we won’t be around the next two Fridays.
This Friday is pot luck (they call it pot providence) for all orientation peoples and staff and families. Should be good. Next Friday we are going to dinner at someone’s house. I met the wife today at the Housekeeping office and Boutique – she works at both places. Lots of volunteers here – lots of older folks around – and it’s been fun to hear their stories. I met one older man in the aviation department who does all the technical drawings for the airplane manuals and curriculum and stuff. He uses CAD programming (think engineering). He volunteers his time each day – just because he loves God and aviation. Quite amazing really. Many of these folks have had overseas experience to some extent.
The term “hit the ground running” would best describe how things have been for us. I am working hard at everything – paperwork stuff, support raising stuff, school started today for boys or at least attempted to start, unpacking and organizing, etc. had to remind myself to eat lunch.
Phil has several binders of info/class schedules/class notes to read and keep track of. I appreciated the fact that I also got a copy of the schedule. There are some classes I will be doing with him, but not too many. I have a weekly meeting with the wives – there are 4 of us.
We are so grateful to be here – it’s been a long time in coming. God has provided every step of the way and I know He will continue.
We have received the official “OK” to attend the Technical Orientation this spring!! It runs March 2 – June 19 in North Carolina and is one of two big steps to complete before leaving for Kenya.
We will leave Wisconsin on Feb. 28.
The other big step is to finish raising our monthly financial support.
This last week our percentage increased from 58% to 62%; how awesome is that!! Only 38% to go, thank you God! You are invited to join us in the work God has for us in Africa.… Please consider and pray about partnering with us on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. For your convenience, we can accept pledges between $3,000 and $1 per month
FYI: $75 per month = 1%, so only 19 people at 2%, 38 people at 1% or 76 people at 1/2% gets us to our goal. So, be a trend setter, click here to join now!!