Wednesday, February 23, 2011


[Sharifa (Rukia's mother) - Rukia - Me - Keith - posed just outside their home in Kibera (their home is the turquoise painted wall...the front door is just out of the photo on the left)]

Yesterday I got to once again spend time with the most beautiful teenage girl I know.  Our team headed to a project on the outskirts of the Kibera slum, the largest slum in East Africa, and the home to my sponsor child, Rukia.  We listened to a program about how the project directors run the program.  We took tea.  I met the mother of my mother's sponsor child Issac.  I met my friend Sunny's sponsor child, Joseph Maina.  And then I went to Rukia's house.

Keith had already visited her home in May of 2009 on another trip and I'd seen some photos of the walk through Kibera.  But you can't prepare yourself for the crowds, the smells, and the narrow bee-hive-like pathways until you walk them yourself.  Our little group consisting of me, Rukia, Keith, Nick, Triss, Stella, Tony and a project worker walked through the bustle of the main road and then ducked through a nearly invisible tin "gate" then walked through narrow alley after narrow alley...I wondered how many years it had taken Rukia as a child to learn her way through this network of passages on her own...and then we turned a corner into a quiet nook and saw her mother dressed in a beautiful traditional purple gown waiting for us.

We all crammed inside their tiny house...Rukia's mother Sharifa had obviously cleaned for the occasion.  Although she has a one room place in the slum, it hasn't stifled her decorating taste...lace curtains across the window, a lace curtain dividing the single room in to half...a lace doily on the small end table on which she'd displayed the framed picture of Keith and I that I'd sent with him as a gift in 2009.   Stella, one of our Compassion graduates, jumped right in as translator and we spoke with Sharifa about Rukia, about the rest of the family (10 of them live in this one room), about how happy she was that we had come so far to visit, about what she wanted us to remember in prayer.

She said that since Rukia joined Compassion that she has become much more obedient as a daughter, has begun to take on responsibilities helping to care for the two young nieces that Sharifa is raising after her daughter-in-law passed away, that her entire character and attitude has improved, and that she does not act like the other children in the slum.  Rukia's birthday is today, so I gave her a necklace to celebrate (she's 14 now!) and we sang "Happy Birthday" which has about 5 verses in Africa.  :)  We prayed.  We laughed.  I almost cried on any number of occasions.  At one point I asked a question and Stella translated Sharifa's brief answer: "She is just so very overwhelmed at it all."

Leaving them there was so difficult.  Sharifa has been there, in that very house, for 15 years...and for the past 12 has been a single parent since her husband died in a traffic accident.  But their hope gave me encouragement.  Sharifa hopes that her older daughter would be able to go to University.  That Rukia would realize her dreams of being a doctor.  She told Keith and me that she was so happy for our marriage and wished us many blessings. that uncertain environment, they were happy and hopeful.  And I am happy and hopeful.  Happy that this beautiful family has become a part of our family, and hopeful that Rukia will be yet another triumph in breaking the cycle of poverty. 

[Just another angle of the photo from the top.]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Masai Country

So it's actually Wednesday morning here in Nairobi, but I'm going to ask you to step back in time with me to Monday afternoon when we visited the Masai lands.  I'm just going to give you a brief overview and then post pictures for you to enjoy as I think that's the best way to communicate this beautiful culture.   I think the thing that struck me the most was the disproportionate amount of work the mother does.  Throughout the day they kept telling us all the chores the mother has to do (which we did for her the day we visited!  What a learning experience).  She washes the dishes, cooks the food, she builds the very house that the family lives in, she fetches the water, she collects firewood (which is really cow dung), she raises the children, she collects and burns any litter that might be around the grounds of the family compound.  She milks the livestock.  From what we could tell, the only tasks the men do are keep the cow pen clean of dung and stand out in the fields and watch the goats, cows and sheep graze.  Momma has an awful lot of work to do!  We spent a morning helping the family with their chores and then ate lunch and watched a program where the women and children sang for us and put on a drama depicting a Masai wedding ceremony.  The landscape was so beautiful that I think it was difficult for me to remember that this was just another face of poverty, albeit a picturesque one.  When we helped fetch the water, it was approximately a 3 mile round trip walk, half of that carrying heavy jugs of water.  They said that the women sometimes make that trip 2 or even 3 times a day depending on the needs of the family.  And while to us Americans it seemed like such a beautiful and simple way of life, we were reminded that theirs is a difficult cycle to break.  Most of the children will grow up and remain in the community without opportunity to attend University or pursue other dreams.  It was encouraging to see the work of Compassion in this community and the faith of the Masai!

[Our group arrives at a Masai home for our home visit.]

[Stella, a Compassion LDP student and Compassion graduate, laughs as they show me how to carry water!]

[I found this to be a much more suitable water carrying method.  :) ]

 [Unlike the Masai men, Keith was happy to help out when I got tired of carrying water.  I taught him everything I knew about water carrying technique.  haha.]
 [The patriarch of the Masai family we visited shows Keith the best way to shovel cow dung.  Apparently it's quite an art.]

[Our home visit team (me, Keith, Nick, Amy, Stella, and Boniface) with the Masai family whose home compound we visited as well as the pastor of the church and a Compassion project worker.]

[Some of the mothers of Compassion children sang songs for us in their brightly colored garb.]

[I believe these ladies were the church choir, but there seemed to be a good deal of overlap.]

 [At the end of the day, we divided into teams of two and each planted a tree outside the Compassion Project office to commemorate our visit.  I hope to return to see a tall tree in that spot one day!]


So I'm about to get things a little out of order....but hang with me.  I've still not blogged about yesterday which was our visit to Masai country...but I just had to blog about Maina quickly.  Maina is sponsored by a good friend of ours, so we had requested to meet him and had brought a gift for him from his sponsor.  Unfortunately poor Maina met the front of a Nissan last Thursday on his way home from school and ended up with a terrible scrape across his forehead.  Thankfully, there were no other injuries except the obvious of what you can see, and he seems to be bouncing back quite nicely.  Keith took this video today right after we gave him his backpack.  If his giggle doesn't make your day, I'd venture to say you don't have a soul. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Safari Walk with our kids!

So since I'm a day behind now due to the exhaustion that set in last night....It's Monday evening here in Nairobi, but I'm going to be blogging about our Sunday.  I'll try to write another post tomorrow morning  to get us back on be sure to check back either LATE Monday evening (CST) or early Tuesday morning (CST)!  Or else, you'll just have multiple entries to read at once which is perfectly OK too.  :)

[The team on the bus headed to church and then to the Safari Walk on Sunday morning!!]

We started out Sunday morning by attending Nairobi Pentecostal Church - Woodley.  I was surprised at how "Western" the service was...the entire thing was in English and after the third Michael W. Smith song, I'd about forgotten that I was in Africa at all!  (I filled out the visitor card and this afternoon received a lovely email from the outreach team inviting me to please visit anytime I happen to be in Nairobi!  Love it!)  Post-church-service lunch was spent at Nairobi Java House which is sort of a cross between a Starbucks and a sandwich joint....well, and I had quesadillas while another guy had chicken I'm not sure how to classify it.

Of course what we'd REALLY all been waiting for was time with our sponsored children.  We all drove to the "Safari Walk" just outside the city which is truly one of the best zoos I've ever been to (and I've been to the Memphis, Ft. Worth and San Diego, you know....I've seen a few...haha.)  All the animals are African animals and the habitat is completely natural.  The bilingual Swahili/English signs are really informational and you walk on a boardwalk through the whole thing which makes you really feel like you're walking through the animals' natural habitats.  Keith and I had arranged for his sponsor boy, Tony from Dandora, my little girl Rukia from Kibera and my mother's sponsor child, Issac...also from Rukia's project in Kibera to meet us there.  It's truly an amazing thing when a child who up until that moment has just been a face in a photo, a name on a letter and a $38 withdrawal on your credit card every month comes running at you with a smiling face and a hug the strength of a vice grip, and you realize that this "good thing" you think you're doing is far beyond that.  It's a relationship...and it's changing the nature of that child's very existence.
 [Our Compassion "family" inside the Safari Walk park.  Issac wasn't so sure about all the group photo taking!!]

Keith has sponsored Tony for almost 6 years now and has met him several times, but was amazed at how tall he has grown in the year and half since they last saw each other!  Tony is an incredibly kind, good-natured (tall!) and gentle 14 year old who is at the top of his class.  They enjoyed catching up and talking about Tony's family and how well Tony is doing in school!  He wants to be a doctor and he is in the top few students of his class!
 [Tony and Keith.  I think next time we see him, Tony will totally be taller than Keith!!]

I've sponsored Rukia since the spring of 2009.  Keith got to meet her shortly after I began to sponsor her, so I've been blessed with many pictures and a few videos from that trip, but was thrilled to finally get to meet her for myself.  She stuck to me (literally...she wouldn't let me further than a few inches away from her) like glue and seemed as equally really-excited-but-not-sure-what-to-do-with-her-emotions as I was.  We talked a good bit (English is her best subject) and giggled even more.  I get to visit her home tomorrow and I am so excited to see her again.  When I asked her what her favorite sport was, she replied "futball" (soccer).  When asked if she owned a "futball" she replied, no....but that she'd much rather have a bicycle.  :)  At least she's honest.
[Rukia was super sassy stylish in her beaded sandals she bought with extra money I'd sent her family as a gift.]

When my mom wanted to sponsor a child, I was excited to find one in the same project as Rukia!  Issac is super smart, but was really quiet all day.  It wasn't until we were giving them their gifts that I found out that part of why he'd been so quiet was that he was disappointed when I showed up instead of my Mom...who sponsors him!!!  He dreams of being an engineer when he grows up.  There were several university students with us who had been Compassion children growing up, and one of them took a few minutes to really encourage him to work hard in his studies so that he can go to University and achieve his dreams.  He seemed to really take her words to heart and she promised to go visit him and talk to him some more about his future which was awesome!  I really hope my Mom gets to meet him one day!!!
[Issac and I after a long day of animal spotting and gift opening!]

There is so much more that went on with the kids and in my thoughts....but that's all I've got for tonight!  Please continue to pray for our trip!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jonathan & Ryan's points of view

Hey guys....because I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday, I'll link you up with Jonathan Whitt...a guy who did get to write about meeting his little girl, Martha (he's also got another post or two about our trip).  Very cool stuff.

I'd also recommend checking out Ryan's blog as well.  I've got some great trip mates! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blog Links

To give you a little background on this trip, Keith is the trip leader from Compassion International and the group with us consists completely of employees of a fantastic Birmingham-Alabama-based ministry called Student Life that runs summer camps for teenagers.  Student Life is a ministry partner of Compassion and they promote the work of Compassion at their camps in effort to find new sponsors to sponsor children in the Compassion program.   The group with us are some dynamic folks...all with a passion for the Lord, social justice, and a world view that understands that when Christ said we are to take care of the poor, that he meant all of matter their geographical location.

That being said, I thought I'd link you up to the blogs of some of my trip-mates as I know we'll all see things differently, we'll each remember things that the other forgot, and in some cases...we'll even be in different places such as home visits where they will document things I wasn't even present for.  So this first blog I'll post is from a guy named Bo.  You can read his blog at
Check it out.  It's great!  More will follow.

Mathare Valley

This is the view out of my hotel room window!!!

Well, I'm exhausted (and a little sunburnt) but absolutely in love with the Kenyan people! We did our first project visit this morning to the Mathare slum which is the second largest slum, population wise, in Kenya. (Kibera is in first place). We had an amazing time at the project this morning. The project director spoke and gave us some information on the area and then a few children gave various performances. When it was time for the children to perform, a kid named Nelson was put in charge of being the emcee and this kid was hilarious! He totally could have been a circus ringmaster, or we decided that he will some day host a Kenyan late-night talk show (ala David Letterman). First, a boy sang, then another boy recited scripture verses and then a small choir came and sang a few more songs. Then Nelson asked for our group to perform so I got the opportunity to do play a song on the violin (which was really cool because almost none of the kids and most of the project workers had never seen one in real life) and then our entire group got up and sang Amazing Grace together. After the assembly ended, we were served tea and broken up in to groups where we observed the classes that the children participate in on Saturdays. Keith and another boy and I sat in on a "cognitive" class for 12-14 year olds where the topic of the day was how to make a good decision. The teacher, Kelvin, was a really dynamic young guy. Those kids are blessed to have his instruction and example.

 [The kids sounded great singing for us!!!]

After class time, we broke into three groups and did home visits. Keith and I, along with several others in our team, visited the home of Ann, a 17 year old girl who lives in the thick of the Mathare valley. We aren't sure where her parents are, but she lives with her older brother and his wife Tabitha, her younger sister, and Tabitha and her brothers three children who are 11, 9, 7, and 1. Ann and Tabitha were both very shy, but were excited to have us visit their home. Ann loves to sing and said she dreams of being a pilot someday. She is in class 8, which is the last year of primary school and is about to begin her four years of high-school. She won my heart a bit. The trip to their home required a long walk through narrow passages filled with wet stinky sewage and then across a bridge over a river. The views from the bridge were incredible, but unfortunately there was also an illegal brewery operating in plain view and our country staff advised us that it was not safe to take photos in that area. Even though I've been to that place, and walked the alleys, it still seems surreal that people actually live there and that it wasn't a movie set. I think it will take me a while to process what I saw and smelled. I've spent the day thinking through lots of things that I won't blog right now....and may never blog about.

[Entering the Mathare can see that it stretches on for a while.  We walked a good ways before we got to Ann's home]

[Ann's sister-in-law, Tabitha, holds her 1 year old boy in the home she and her husband share with his two sisters and their own four children.  The baby didn't know what to think of me.]
[Ann and I on the grounds of her school which we visited on the way home from her house]

[Keith and I loved meeting this boy, John, who was as hilarious as he was smart. ]
After the home visits we got to serve lunch to the children at the project. I was thrilled to be stationed behind a large bag of chipati to hand out! (Chipati is a thin, soft bread, sort of like a thick tortilla or pita bread, or the naan that is served with Indian food.) It was hard not to eat it all myself! It's one of my favorite foods! Then we ate lunch at the project and luckily, there was a whole stack of chipati for us too, so I might have eaten 3 of them! We also had beef and mashed potatoes and rice. It was all delicious.
 [Serving one of the Compassion students a piece of chipati. Mmm Mmm, Good!!]

After returning to the hotel, (and having an hour to take showers!!!) we all ate a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant, and then we all went our separate ways, and Keith and I were happy to be able to return to our rooms at 8:00pm! It will be lovely to get a good nights sleep before tomorrow's activities! I am so excited because tomorrow I'll get to meet Rukia, my sponsor child!!! Be sure to check back as I know I'll have lots to say tomorrow night. :)

Blessings, from Kenya

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If its must be Arkansas......

The auditorium....before the audience arrived! What a great venue!

David and the rest of the band rehearsing for the show!

Whew. So I’ve clearly (again) fallen behind on my writing. So much has happened since my last entry that there is no way I could possibly try to catch up in detail….so I’ll give you a brief overview:

July/August: Spent a fabulous month at the JH Ranch serving in the worship band as well as on the high ropes courses. It was an amazing time again to see so many lives radically changed, including my own (again!) and to spend time with friends new and old and get in some good ole fashioned camping and such!

September: Got to spend a wonderful week in Colorado with my dear friend Mary-Hall and her husband August (the man, not the month). Keith was out there as well for some meetings the first part of the week so we got to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, the first snow of the year on Pikes’ Peak and take a tour of Compassion (Keith’s company) Headquarters.

October: lead worship at a few wonderful Outback America events……but most notably, KEITH AND I GOT ENGAGED ON OCTOBER 11 on a Ronnie gig in Asheville, North Carolina. He took me to the Overlook at The Cove, the Billy Graham training facility and got down on one knee. It was the most perfect proposal that I can imagine. For the entire story, check out our wedding website here.

November: In the midst of lots of wedding planning and traveling, I started a Fall/Christmas tour with Christian singer David Phelps. It’s a great gig….lots of nice people…but whew! Learning all the music is quite a challenge! Keith and I were also blessed to get to spend an entire week in North and South Carolina visiting his entire family for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful visit and I got to meet (amidst a gaggle of aunts, uncles and cousins) Keith’s Grandmother, Dad, Step mom Dreama, and older brother Brian, the 4 members of his family I hadn’t gotten to meet yet. They were wonderful and it’s at Dreama’s request that I’ve decided to return to my blog once again. You can thank her, or blame her, however you want to look at it. ;)

And I guess that brings you up to snuff on my life, in short, over the past few months. At present, I’m sitting on stage at a church in Texarkana, Arkansas in the middle of sound check (It’s taken me about 4 hours to write this blog installment because I keep having to stop and work. Haha.) for our second Christmas show of the tour. We kicked it off last night at “The Pentecostals of Alexandria” in Louisiana and are excited about another great show tonight. Christmas is such a fun time of year for me because it’s really the only time of year that I get to sing anymore…and while background vocal parts are always a challenge, it’s fun to dust off my vocal chords and give it a whirl. Speaking of….I think I’m needed onstage again. J Keep checking back…it’s going to be a busy December and I’ll be blogging along the way. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


So I don't have much time to post, because my friend Kim and a few other Ranch staffers are on their way to pick me up (with In and Out burger for me to go...might I add) ...but thought I'd let you all know that I've arrived in Sacramento! Thus begins a 4 hour trek to the Ranch! I'm so excited to be here! I'll have an update with more news soon....but for now I wanted to let everyone know I'd arrived....and to remind you to check back!

I mean...I'm here for a month! Cut me some slack! :)

blogging in the baggage claim. I'm a girl on the go!

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Let's Go to the Movies" :The sequel

So today I'm packing like a madwoman trying to figure out how to get everything I'll need for an entire month (including bedding) into two suitcases. However, since I've been on a blogging roll as of late, and I'd hate to break my streak now...I figured I'd post something for your viewing pleasure to amuse you until my first California post which will be sometime either Sunday night but more likely Monday.

Here is Episode Two of Emily's golf cart tourism future. In this episode we learn about the various trees that inhabit the woods. I'm not sure what happened to the British accent she was using on the previous day, but this video contains some sort of funny voice, although I can't quite determine what sort of voice/accent it is. :) Hope you enjoy this peek into our 4th of July with two of my favorite girls!

Watch out for that tree, Uncle Keith!!!