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Settling In

Wow, the calendar indicates that we have been on African soil for over a month, and already, we have encountered adventure and blessing during our weeks of orientation.

Why don’t you grab a cup of coffee (or chai!) and let’s catch up…

We arrived at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) on the first day of August.  Since then, we have been making strides to familiarize ourselves with the culture and develop relationships with many folks both on and off of campus.  This is quite easy to do on campus because as the new comers to RVA, we accepted eight invitations to dine with other families during our first two weeks!  Our hosts do not hold back and serve fantastic cuisine.  Mind you, we are easy to please because we consider toast and eggs to be fine dining (throw in a good cup of coffee and we will likely remember you forever).  While off of campus, we seek friendship as we try out Swahili words and baby step our way to learn cultural greetings and basic phrases.  

Since students are scheduled to arrive during the last weekend of August, our current routine is intended to get us settled and learn the ropes.  For now, this bids us to walk down the hill to the market for fruits and vegetables once or twice a week.  While there, we stop by the Duka (sounds like DOO-kah; a small store) for sugar, flour, rice, beans and other staples.  We also purchase eggs:  30 eggs for 360 Kenyan shillings (right about now, many of you are wondering about the conversion for Kenyan shillings.  It is approximately 100 shillings per 1 US dollar.)  We also pick up our milk can twice a week to receive pasteurized milk.

Mornings begin with an overcast cloudiness that often lasts until mid-afternoon.  The daytime temperature hovers around 20 degrees celsius while the nighttime temperature drops between 12 – 15 degrees celsius.  It tends to stay quite cool within our home.  This is considered the remnant of winter/rainy season (though we are told that it is unusually dry and conditions are drought-like).

We heat our home with a wood fireplace and keep slippers or shoes on our feet at most times.  The concrete walls seem to maintain chill rather than disperse heat, and, while the sun may feel warm, living at 7500 ft brings a coolness that overrides the warmth for the time being.   

So far our encounters with baboons and monkeys have been pleasant.  However, we have heard that if you leave your windows open, you may need to keep an eye on those bananas sitting on the counter, and, if you happen to walk beneath a tree full of monkeys, don’t look up (and pray that any moisture you may feel on your head is rain).

One of the most enjoyable treats here is the local fruit.  Truly, the bananas and pineapples seem sweeter and are readily available (which make it the perfect excuse to use them for breakfast, snack, lunch and supper!). 

A highlight has been interacting with the local culture.  One of my favourite things to do is watch Kenyan’s in action.  Already our kitchen counter is topped with a wooden bowl crafted by one of the local men in town, and, just today I happened upon one of the ladies beading jewelry.  She stopped mid-weave to show me the colours of Kenya making its way around a bracelet.  What creativity!  We can be creative because God is creative!

Derek has had a dream come true because he was asked to roast coffee beans with our neighbour (while sipping coffee, no less!), Mason has found that campus holds a gymnasium and several outdoor basketball courts, and, Alexa is thrilled to be able to bake and share with so many people.

God is so good and we are so blessed and humbled that he has allowed us to see stamps of his handiwork, to meet his people, to encounter his creation.

As we transition, we thank you for your prayers which have sustained us.  God has been so abundant and gracious, we worship and thank our Great Provider for his beauty among all of our diversity.  May you seek him in your “everyday”, find him while you “do life” and praise him as you “go through the motions”.  Jesus Christ – the common ground that spans all cultures. 

Bwana asifiwe (sounds like BWAH-nah ah-see-FEE-way)!  Praise the Lord!

Please enjoy the photos below.  These are some of the beautiful sights of Kenya, Africa.


Mason & Alexa at the Duka.


Welcome to RVA!


Delivering muffins to the maternity staff at the AIC Kijabe Hospital.  Just down the hill from the RVA campus.


First attempt at roasting coffee beans.


One of the many Colobus monkeys in a tree on campus.


Outdoor basketball court on campus.


Walking the “Guard’s Trail” on campus.  The trail is used for security guards to walk the perimeter of the campus.  Some parts of it can be quite steep.  One of the pleasures of living on a hill.

Settling In

 

Rift Valley Academy campus (Photo by Bailey Grimes)

We arrived at Rift Valley Academy August 1st and began settling in to our new home and new routine.  Robert and I attended new staff orientation the week of the August 7th and have been in language learning class this week, receiving an introduction into Swahili.  The first few days we were here, we took trips into Nairobi for groceries and items to set up our home (appliances, dishes, cleaning supplies, etc.).  Let me tell you–it was an experience.  It’s such a strange feeling to be standing in the middle of a busy grocery store as an adult knowing that you need help just to complete your shopping.  Different prices, different weights of meats and cheeses, unfamiliar placements of items, not recognizing any brands…it’s quite overwhelming.  But our neighbor who took us to town the first time was so patient and understanding.  She just kept saying, “Everyone feels like this the first time they come shopping.  It’s normal.”  It didn’t feel normal, but her words acted as a balm to my anxious spirit, and once we arrived back at our new home, we were able to take a breather and begin unpacking to make things feel a little more like home.

Home has always been a special place for me.  It’s my place of refuge and I have always enjoyed making it my own.  “A place for everything, everything in its place.”  I think home has always felt so nice because it’s a place I could, for the most part, control.  But being here is a little different.  Although I can control where we put things and how often we clean, I can’t 100% make it look like I want to.  I can’t run to Target or Home Goods and find some cute pillows and a matching rug.  Before we moved, it really didn’t bother me to sell most of our belongings.  But now that we have a new dwelling place, I am realizing how much I relied on things to comfort me.  I miss our comfortable couch where we entertained friends and the dining table that Robert’s parents bought us when we married.  I miss my great-grandmother’s paintings hanging on the walls and our own dishes that we’ve eaten off of for twelve years.  But God is growing me…He is teaching me to rely on Him and not to dwell on what is temporal.

“When God spoke from Mount Sinai His voice shook the earth, but now He makes another promise: ‘Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.’  This means that the things on earth will be shaken, so that only eternal things will be left.  Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:26-29

Even painting is a new experience. Notice the literal stir “stick!” (Photo by Bailey Grimes)

Since we’ve been here, I’ve had my ups and downs emotionally, but August 10th was a particularly difficult day.  I felt ineffective and drained, was missing home, and felt like I was doing a lousy job as a wife and mother.  I don’t think I realized just how different life in Kenya would be.  Everything felt foreign and I had none of my usual resources to turn to.  I realized that I had been so busy over the past year with the preparations of moving that I didn’t take time to process my feelings.  I was missing Midland, family, our friends, church group, and even fast food!  Chick-fil-a and Jersey Mike’s were calling my name!  (I swear I smelled Taco Villa burritos one morning while we were in training.)  Anyway, I ended up staying home the evening of the 10th while Robert and Bailey went to a friend’s home for dinner.  I knew I would end up crying, and I’m not a fan of weeping in front of people, especially people that I don’t know well.

Robert gave me sound advice to stay home and see what God would say to me.  Now, many of you know that I have a great love of literature and left many a book at home.  I was only able to bring about a dozen books with me, and one of the books I brought was My Utmost for His Highest, a devotional book by Oswald Chambers.  Not sure why I brought it–I’ve never really used it before.  But it found its way into our luggage and made it to our new home here in Kijabe.  Let me just say–I have no idea how God does it, how He knows exactly what we will need to hear in a moment of weakness, but He does it.  He exists outside of time and space and is all knowing, all powerful.  His love for us never ceases to astound me.

The devotion for August 10 was about the “Sacrament of the Saint” and the reference was found in 1 Peter 4.

“So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for He will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19

“But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” Isaiah 43:18 (Photo by Bailey Grimes)

I know my suffering is small compared to what many others experience.  I’m not starving and no one is torturing me because of my faith.  But God was so gracious and so sweet to me in that moment because He spoke to my heart and let me know that He cared.  He cares about the sufferings in our lives, no matter what they are or what they look like.  As I was missing everything about Midland, Texas, God was giving me these words: “Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world.  God plants His saints in the most useless places.  We say–God intends me to be here because I am so useful.  Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use.  God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.”  God reminded me, in His loving and tender way, that I don’t have to worry about where I am.  That burden is not for me to bear.  I only have to concern myself with my own sanctification and my own obedience to His will for my life.  He is all that I need, and although many days will be hard, I can rest in knowing that He is all sufficient, and that I can trust Him, because He will never fail me.

 

And her name will be….

Anastasia Louise Hazel

We are happy to share with everyone what our daughter’s name will be. Like most of the names in the Bible, her name has an origin and means something.

Anastasia means resurrection.   And    Louise means renowned warrior.

So together her name means Renowned Resurrection Warrior.

How did we come to this name?

Louise is from our American family.

  • Claudia’s grandmother was Claudia Louise.
  • Jeremy’s grandmother was Barbara Louise.
  • Jeremy’s mother is Deborah Louise.

Anastasia comes indirectly from our San family in Namibia.

When we were visiting Namibia in April, we told our San family we were expecting. Tsaba, my mama and namesake, gave us a boy and girl Ju/’hoan name. This is their tradition for the grandparents of a child to give the name and not the parents. Tsaba gave us /asa for a girl. It has a click. It is the easiest of the 4 clicks but the U.S. government would not understand it for a birth certificate or future legal things. We didn’t want to complicate our daughter’s life, so we westernized it to Tasa. We pondered it for a long time and just didn’t feel it was enough. We searched and searched through other names but kept coming back to Tasa. I found that Tasa meant resurrection. Then I looked for other names that meant resurrection. This is when we found Anastasia and Tasa can be a nickname of Anastasia. It took several weeks for us to settle on Anastasia.

I did more research. I read an article about how one man presented the gospel by introducing his family and the meaning behind their names. Anastasia was his mother’s, wife’s and daughter’s name. “Anastas” is a Greek action and promise word found in 138 verses in 6 different forms in the Bible. When used as a verb, it is means to make or cause someone stand up, to raise up or to raise again; resurrection. This started with Abram when God told him to arise and walk about the land of Canaan and when God promised that everyone would be blessed through him. This is the inheritance of heaven for all who confess and believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” John 11:25

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3–4

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15

Jeremy and I have used often 1 Peter 3:15 to describe the work God has for us here in Africa. Hope with gentleness and respect. This hope we pray will come to the San, the Digo and all the unreached people groups of the world. We have just a small part to play. Thank you to all who play their part by praying for us and faithfully giving. Please continue to pray for this pregnancy: that I will remain healthy even though I am unable to get to doctor appointments as normal and that Anastasia will be born healthy. Our little warrior is growing and active these days!

 

 

 

10 on the 10th, Crossing back across Cultures

Moving back to the States has been relatively easy. At least I guess it has. The physical changes people warned us about haven’t been that big of a deal. The spritual/emotional/psychological changes, well, those haven’t set in yet. So, while I’d love to write a heartfelt post about how absolutely INSANE it is to move from one life into a very different, but equally as wonderful life all over the course of a few days, it’ll have to wait. Mostly, because it’s still just too crazy and I haven’t had a second to think through any of the deep stuff at all. I can only say that I feel quite bipolar over the ability to adore two places at once, two sets of friends, two homes, two continents, etc. We moved from, in my opinion, one slice of heaven to another. My brain is racked (wracked?)…see I can no longer spell. So, instead of trying to put all that chaos into a pretty blog post, I’m gonna just give you the best Ten I can on the not-really-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things things I’ve noticed as we adjust back to life in this amazing place called America.

  1. Upon arrival at the airport I immediately noticed how clean and organized everything was. The straight lines and well marked signage. Customs was a breeze and I sure did love all those North Cackalacky accents welcoming us to Raleigh.  I had no idea how much I’d missed those long drawn out words. Everything sounds sweeter, slower.
  2. Upon exiting the airport (approximately 3.5 weeks ago now), the first things I noticed were these: It was super hot and I could feel the water in the air. And I loved it! That sweet southern summertime humidity felt just like home to me.
  3. Every vehicle in the parking garage was ENORMOUS. We journeyed from Africa to England to the US and the sizes in automobiles could not have varied more. Even we hopped right into what felt like a space shuttle turned on it’s side when we rode home in a Honda Odyssey. All that room and a gazillion cupholders. It was kind of glorious and a bit overwhelming. And I won’t even go into how it felt like we were flying as we sped 80mph down that smooth, straight interstate!
  4. There are stoplights that work and there are rules for the road that most everyone follows! Awesome.
  5. America is maybe the most convenient place on earth. Here’s what I’ve noticed…Garbage disposals (did you know they don’t routinely have these even in homes in the UK?)
  6. Two light switches for one room. You can walk in one side, switch on the light, walk to the other and switch it off on your way out. As dumb as it sounds…I really missed that.
  7. Trash bins everywhere. Don’t take it for granted people. And for goodness’ sake, use them.
  8. Butter with measurements marked on the wrapping. No guessing. No weighing. No scraping it out of tablespoon or cup measures. Just line up your knife and whack away. Or use the entire stick. It’s up to you.
  9. Target. My first trip back to this amusement park for moms was fabuloso. The cute kids clothes on clearance, the one spot (although, is it just me, or does the $1 spot have more $3 items than $1 items anymore?! C’mon Target), the adorable everything really. I still love it. However, on my second or third visit, I have to admit that I did have to do a double take as I rushed down the toilet paper aisle with a friend as we looked for Clorox wipes to finish off her school supply list. Y’all. An entire aisle, both sides of just toilet paper options. The aisle beside it held nothing more than a vast array of paper towels down each side of the aisle. Other than my first trip through Costco where the overwhelming amount of refrigerated space made my head spin, I hadn’t really felt overwhelmed by the huge number of options in American stores. What with all the working indoor plumbing, I suppose America needs options for TP, but I have to admit, it felt strange.
  10. The 4 year-olds perspective. When we left for Kenya, Beckett was 2 and a half-ish. Other than Granny and Grandaddy’s house and their mower, we’re pretty sure he remembers nothing of his former life in the US. His first trip back to the beach was priceless. We were able to go to the beach in Kenya once, but it just wasn’t the same as jumping over the waves and playing in the ocean like we get to do in NC. He was mesmerized and couldn’t stop grinning….another Cook family beach bum in the making….He asked Granny what the thing in her kitchen was? The dishwasher….His new favorite past time is filling up cups from the water on the front of the fridge….Watching the robotic trash truck pick up and empty trash cans is beyond entertaining….And maybe my favorite of Beckett’s new discoveries came after we played a guessing game that went a little like this: B: Mom, I want to go to one of those places where they make the things inside. M: What kind of things? B: You know, the things we like. M: Tell me about the things. B: You know, like red drinks and ice. M: Ohhhh. You mean the places that give us drinks? Like Sonic? B: Yes! I want to go to one of those places where you drive in your car and they give you the drinks into your car! M: Those are called Drive-Thrus. B: Yep. I wanna go to a Car Thru. Can we go to one now?….And he still calls them Car Thrus.

There have been many other things that have come up, like instinctively thinking squirrels in the trees are monkeys and wondering if you’re driving on the correct side of the highway. And questioning if groceries being delivered to my door or being ordered for pickup is really a thing?! But for the most part it’s all in good fun. I’ll do my best to continue my legacy of truth in editing (I’m nothing if not honest) when the hard times come…as we know they will. Until then, we’ll keep riding on the coattails of summer time travel, happy reunions, slushies and sunshine.

FUN IN THE UK!

Hello from chilly Kenya! What a warm and wonderful welcome I received on my short visit to the UK in July. When I arrived at Heathrow after a night flight from Nairobi, I was greeted by Mum, Julie and of course, Gary the (inflatable) Giraffe!  Later that day at a family supper, Deborah the Zebra made her appearance.

GRADUATION DAY

It was such a great two weeks, with the perfect mix and balance of crazy busy and time to relax.  The reason for the visit and of course the highlight was Molly’s graduation ceremony at Keele.   I am so inspired by her hard work and focus.  We celebrated her well-deserved success in style with Mum and other members of the family in a beautiful converted coach house.  What a treat!

Thank you to so many of you who were able to come to the church events over the two weeks and in particular, thank you to those who worked so hard in making those occasions perfect, especially those who baked cakes and served teas!  The sun shone, we chatted, we ate cake, we drank tea and we thanked God.  It was perfect!

It was a real privilege to speak at the services of St Peter’s and The Blessed Mary churches on the first Sunday.   In allowing God to speak, I was able to honestly share with you the highs and lows of the last twelve months. My talk focused on 2 Corinthians 12: 9 ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’

I wanted to share a part of my talk with you through this newsletter…..

Weaknesses are not something we often share in public or private, maybe not even to ourselves. But you will have noticed that much of what I have talked about is my weaknesses and maybe I’m even boasting about them. Being strong is the way to portray yourself, isn’t it?  So speaking of weaknesses, in Africa we have been watching closely international events, such as Trump, Brexit and the UK General Election. Strong and Stable proved to be not so secure!  This year has forced me into recognising and accepting my weaknesses and at times I’ve been overwhelmed by them.  I’ve tried to succeed in my own strength and often failed.  But only then was I ready to hear Jesus say, I’m all the grace you need”.

The practicalities of living in Africa and the city of Nairobi in many ways are the easy part of this new life but transitioning between cultures is challenging.   However, I do feel ready, after two wonderful and refreshing weeks with family and friends in England to embrace and thrive in my second year and beyond.

Paper planes and mission – The Blessed Mary Church service

Meet the Missionary event – St Peter’s Church

PRAYERS FOR KENYA

I have been home in Nairobi for three weeks now and I’ve settled back quickly into my routine and ministry here.  AIM Air’s General Manager, Tom has returned from his Home Assignment and we have spent time handing back the reigns.  My role as Contingency Officer has taken priority as we prepare for Kenya’s General Election next week.  In past elections there has been localised rioting, and in 2007 Kenya suffered serious inter-tribal violence.  We do not anticipate that level of conflict this year, but we are taking certain precautions.  I have been involved in a number multi agency security meetings and working alongside other faith based organisations in preparation.  This has taken up much of my time since I returned and whilst it’s good to be ready we are prayerful that it will be unnecessary.
Voting will take place on Tuesday 8th August although the results are not expected until some days afterwards.  The country is a little anxious as we approach next week.

Please join us in praying for peaceful and fair elections and continued national stability.

The AIM Air team

Finally, thank you all so much for your continued support, kindness and encouragement.  It was great to see so many of you in July and I look forward to catching up with more of you next year when I return for my Home Assignment.

Short video highlighting one of the ministries we support at AIM AIR.

 

The Father’s Hands

While we had not anticipated a return to Australia at the end of 2016, nor had we foreseen that our stay here would end up being quite as lengthy as it has turned out to be, we have experienced God’s hand at work during our time here. Being able to spend Christmas with our family was very special despite the culture shock associated with returning at a time of such rampant commercialisation and over indulgence. There was much joy in being able celebrate the Saviour’s birth together as a family.

Our youngest daughter was quite unwell when we returned to Australia. She was understandably very pleased to see us and it was a great joy to both ourselves and our daughter to help her and be there for her as she walked the road back to full health.

We had the pleasure of farewelling our eldest daughter as she went off on a TEAR encounter trip to India for 6 weeks and also to be around on her return enabling us to be available as she began to process the experience and what its outworking means for her future.

We have had the opportunity to spend time with our ageing parents as well as with extended family members. While there have been some difficult aspects to this which have brought challenges, we have valued the time and opportunities that we have had to sow into relationships in different ways.

We have seen God’s hand in many ways from the provision of a variety of different homes for us to stay in, special experiences bestowed on us, celebrations that included us, the joy of reconnecting with friends and supporters to the provision of vehicles to help us get around. We are profoundly humbled by the generosity and love that has been graciously bestowed on us by so many amazing brothers and sisters in Christ. You are a living testimony to the love and grace of our heavenly father.