Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Emma's Sweet Sixteen

Emma turns Sixteen today!

With the Kenyan elections behind us, it was back to school week at Rosslyn Academy. Emma is now a high school junior and is excited to begin her first year on the national honor society. More than that, she is thrilled to be back with her great group of friends.

Watching Emma grow up in Kenya has been such a joy. We are so proud of the kind, responsible, and daring young woman that she has become. 

Celebrating Emma's birthday after the first day of school

For her birthday, Emma wanted to have a little magical fun, and so she and some of her closest friends took on the challenge of completing our DIY Harry Potter Escape Rooms. It was a lot of fun solving puzzles and discovery mysterious hidden clues and passages.

In the end, everyone managed to escape from the dark wizard's sinister plot.

Erica's Peanut Butter Pie, Harry Potter Style

Ava and Tristan a part of the fun!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An update from Kenya: The Things that Make for Peace

As Jesus drew near the city, he wept, saying, 
"If you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace!" 
Luke 19:41

Worshipping this morning at the International Christian Fellowship of Nairobi, we prayed for peace in Kenya and the many areas of unrest and conflict throughout the world. From cities like Charlottesville to Kisumu, Juba to Kasai, and Caracas to Pyongyang, turmoil and escalating violence grip the lives of so many.

On Saturday, in the Nairobi slum of Mathare a large group of youth began hurling stones at police. It is unclear whether they were motivated by election protests that have mainly erupted in Western Kenya or if they were simply expressing anger towards the authority of increased police presence. Regardless of their motives, violence erupted and as the police chased the group through the narrow streets and allies, officers began firing live rounds into the air to "scare the hoodlums". 

Tragically, an eight-year-old girl was killed. She was standing on a fourth-floor balcony over looking the spectacle taking place in the Mathare Market when she was hit by one of the stray police bullets. She died almost immediately.

Local human rights groups now report twenty-four deaths in Kenya from this past week's election unrest. The unrest has not been wide spread but has erupted mainly in strongholds of the opposition party, such as Kisumu, and in areas like Garissa where inter-clan fighting over the control of county government has resulted in a fire that destroyed the central market of the town.

Situations like these should be upsetting to the Church. But when we hear of the pain and suffering endured by others, how can we respond? I think that for many of us, the greatest temptation is to simply tune out and immerse ourselves in the diversion of our own personal interests and circles of friendship. Afterall, what can we do about sweeping issues like injustice, hunger, and poverty?

When Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, he perceived the trajectory that the Zealot movement of redemptive violence was taking the city in. Jesus predicted how one day the Roman army would surround and destroy the city and its holy temple (this attack would happen in 70AD -- an attack sparked by a Jewish rebellion against Rome rule). "They will tear you to the ground," wept Jesus, "you and your children within you."

Prideful leadership only escalates violence. And sadly, it is the poor and marginalized that are most vulnerable in times of conflict and unrest. But simply ignoring the suffering of others is equally harmful.

As Christians, we are called to be light to the world. To speak and demonstrate the love and hope of God, even to our enemies and neighbours. The things that make for peace are often costly. They require us to take seriously the inequity and suffering of others. Humility, generosity, and courage to listen and seek justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation -- these things make for peace.

We know that many churches in Kenya and around the world are praying for peace this Sunday. May we also seek ways that we might actively participate in making peace through standing in solidarity with those who are pushed to the margins of our societies. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Praying for Kenya

"Keep Peace Fellow Kenyans."
Graffiti from the last Kenyan Election in 2012.

It was another cold grey August day here in Nairobi, everyone whom we've spoken with throughout the day shared a common feeling of unease, but remain hopeful. 

Although the local radio and media report five deaths from yesterday's public unrest in Nairobi slum areas and in the Western town of Kisumu, it is important to recognize that they were far from the norm. The Wednesday protests remain isolated. The majority of Kenyans seem to be wary of any repeat of the post-election violence of 2007/2008. 

"We just need to put this election behind us," shared our friend Francis. "What's done is done. People just want to get back to life and work."

Similiar sentiments have been shared with us from friends in Western Kenya. Although disappointed in the election results, they too are not interested in dwelling on accusations of vote rigging and hacking that have been raised by Riala Odinga. "No government will last forever," shared our friend living near Kisumu. "We must move forward."

Kenyans lining up to cast their ballots during Tuesday's national election

We join our Kenyan friends in their optimistic hope that Kenya will pull together after such a divisive election. With the country divided almost in half, it is a crucial time for  Kenyans to draw on their common future as one nation. 

Please join us in praying for Kenya and its leaders. We pray that the official results being released by the electoral commission, and the confirmation of third party observers, will be accepted and that peace will be kept.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Praying for Kenya

On Tuesday, August 8th, Kenyans will cast their ballots for the 2017 national elections. The race is very close for president, as well as over many county positions throughout the country. 

Tensions and suspicions have been building over the past months, and in the last week several incidents have people bracing for the potential of post-election disputes and violence. 

We are praying that the leaders of the two main parties will be voices of calm and humility, no matter the outcome of Tuesday's vote. Democracy will be put to the test as Kenyan's are called to put the national interest over tribal and regional loyalty.  

This Sunday, many pastors and church leaders will be calling their congregations to be forces of peace and civility over the coming weeks. May Christians of every denomination live up to that calling to be ambassadors of peace and reconciliation.

The BBC has created a brief summary video that gives an overview of the election and some of the background. It is well worth the 3 minutes it takes to watch -- Watch Here