Sunrise from the Serena Camp with Mt. Kenya peeking through the clouds

What a privilege to go on another trip that could be described as once in a lifetime! This time, it was to Kenya. As I wrote in a previous blog, it can be difficult to share about a trip of this magnitude with others simply because there is so much to process, and each experience is so rich. I will do my best, though!

We found ourselves as the newbies on our first time visiting the African continent. We were thankful this trip was with a group, and several had been before, so at least we had some experience with us. It helped some in our preparation before the trip as well.

Our purpose for going to Kenya was service and mission related. We were there to encourage the work already taking place that is led by local leadership. Through Chick-fil-A, we were connected with LifeShape, who partners with 410 Bridge, who are the boots on the ground if you will. The 410 Bridge partners with communities to sustainably improve the quality of life and meet the goals the leaders of the community set. All week long, we heard “with, not for.” This model has been pretty successful for the 410 Bridge and the communities they serve across the world. They don’t just throw money and mission trips at a problem and move on.

Our main goals were to help with some clean up and building of houses after a fire, visit schools, meet and encourage local leadership, lead leadership development activities for the local leadership council and 410 Bridge staff, and see the difference the 410 Bridge makes firsthand (almost like an ambassador if you will).

Clean up from a fire that destroyed 30 homes and displaced 100 people

Traveling for a long period of time is always draining, but wow is it worth it to land in a completely different world ready to be experienced and explored!

Overall, our trip went smoothly. There were a few bumps along the way, but Hakuna Matata is a real phrase in Swahili, and we adapted to that mindset pretty quickly.

Being so near the equator, I was surprised that temperatures were only in the 70s during the day. The sun was intense, and the elevation bothered me a little, but it was beautiful weather most of the trip. Being so temperate, many of the plants I grow in the mild months at home grow year round in Kenya, as long as there is enough water for them. I was surprised to find lantana and succulents growing to very large sizes unsolicited and not cared for meticulously by a gardener.

A view of Mt. Kenya from our bus with cactus and acacia trees

Everyone we met was very welcoming, and we were thankful to discover that we made deeper connections with people than surface level introductions. I hope that we encouraged the people we met as much as they encouraged us.

Children always seem to pull at your heartstrings. On this trip, we visited 2 schools and also had a day with kids all around us while working on the construction and cleaning up after the fire. We saw the dedication of many of the students, some walk for miles, and some live at the school. The children in the community who were too young for school were still very present, though. They helped with things like carrying water or searching through the debris to find anything that could be reused, like nails for building new houses. I was lucky enough to connect with a group of older girls who showed me their garden and other projects they were working on.

Fast friends once I asked about their gardening

Having been to developing countries in the Caribbean, I thought I had witnessed poverty. But even with that familiarity, I was still struck by how little people had. I was also surprised to find that Kenyan time is experienced like island time. Things may or may not happen at all, much less on time. So many factors contribute to this approach on time. But every day, the things that did happen were rich, experienced in the moment, not stressed or rushed, more present if you will.

We were welcomed into the community with dancing and singing, a common practice filled with so much joy

Two things I learned on this trip- how indulgent and wasteful the American lifestyle is and how not to be personally bothered by other people’s timeliness and missing information. If you know me, you know that the second part of that is a big lesson for me.

As far as indulgence, if I were working on a project at home, I would just go to a home improvement store and buy a new box. It wouldn’t cross my mind to dig through debris or straighten bent nails. We are certainly indulgent when it comes to our shopping and eating habits too. Most people that we met only had 1 pair of shoes and one or two sets of clothing. I instantly felt that I was spoiled for my excellent pair of sneakers and the new pair of sandals I purchased for Africa.

Overall, I fell in love with Kenya. The people, the nature, the weather. It is a beautiful and welcoming country, and I would gladly go back again. And as if I didn’t already love it, the safari we went on certainly would have changed that.

Elephants from our safari

Please stay tuned to the blog to see my daily journals and more pictures!

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