Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's too soon to say

I think about writing something on here a few times a week. Things happen all the time here in Kenya that I could write about: funny things; sad things; things that would break your heart. I just never seem to know what to make of it all. How am I to understand everything that's happening in front of me? How can I sum up an opinion about it, tie it up neat and tidy, and put it on here for you to read? That's probably why it's been 2 months since my last entry.

When asked in 1972 of the impact the French Revolution had on history, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai reportedly replied “It’s too soon to tell.” You'd think that, after 200 or so years, he'd be able to make something of it, yes?

You know, as an American (and as a shallow, prideful extrovert), I'm able to form an opinion about something from thin air. I don't even need facts to cloud my view of what's going on. Actually, hard data sometimes gets in the way of a real, heart-felt opinion and it's easier just to avoid facts altogether. The last couple of months I've been learning that this way of thinking doesn't carry you very well into a place like Kenya. Most of our opinions over there don't work over here.

The starving community looks much different from a closer proximity than it does on TV.

The lack of rain actually effects people you love.

Poverty is a way of life for most of the world.

The answers most of us Americans have in the U.S. don't seem to work or even hold water over here.

So, what do I think about the two boys that drowned in the river next to where I work? How do I wrap my mind around the loss that their families are feeling? What do I think of the drought and how people are severely suffering out in the driest areas - how they may start seeing death soon if there is no relief or rain? What is our responsibility in reaching out to them? How is the economic hardship of America going to impact the work being done in poor countries like this? How is the church responding and is it working? What do I think about all these things?

I have no clue. It's way too soon to say.

Friday, December 26, 2008

perfect gifts

Everyone receives gifts differently, I think. There are those who wake up Christmas morning just biting at the bit to rip open packages and see what’s theirs. There are the people who take joy in watching others open gifts and, to them, that is a gift in itself. I’ve never been one of these people, really, preferring mostly to rip open my packages quickly and get to the heart of what Christmas is really all about: more stuff for me. You may chuckle at this, but if you’re a gift-receiver at heart, you know what I mean. You salivate when you know someone has a gift for you. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that the gift often reveals something about the giver.

For example, when my grandmother was still alive, she went to great lengths to find extravagant gifts for each of her children and grandchildren. She delighted in giving me a leather jacket or my sisters sweaters from Express. She knew that my family couldn’t afford these things normally and so she wanted to give them to us. The gift told me that my grandmother loved us uniquely and wanted to express her love for us extravagantly.

My mother, on the other hand, would give us different gifts. The gifts weren’t as plentiful as they were at our grandparent’s house, but there were well thought out and full of love. In 1997, my mom got me the CD that I’d been wanting so badly (and still have to this day – Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing.) The gift told me my mom didn’t have as much extra money, but she knew us well and she wanted good things for us.

My Christmas celebrations here in Kenya have been counter-traditional to what I’m used to. For example, people here don’t put Christmas lights up on their houses our huts. They don’t inflate life-sized scenes of baby Jesus in the manger right in front of their houses and there’s not a lot of hullabaloo about shopping until you’re dropping. With all these differences, I’m left wondering what is the same. What can I cling to that reminds me that this time of the year is uniquely Yule Tide?

Tim and Lorna, a Kenyan couple who work closely with AfricaHope, opened their home to me and some missionaries that had no other Christmas plans. Not too long after I woke up yesterday, Lorna began teaching me how to make chapatti, a Kenyan food that’s similar to a tortilla but much more complicated and delicious. We had no exchange of gifts or sitting around a tree or fireplace. We had each other and we had laughter. My friend, Ashleigh, remembered to bring her iPod and so Lorna and I listened to Christmas music when we were cooking. There was something simple and beautiful about that exchange. She was teaching me how to cook her food and we were listening to music I approved of – Over the Rhine’s latest Christmas album.

Not too long after we left their house this morning, we passed through a wild and mostly uninhabited area where we saw zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and gazelle all greeting us as we blazed a dust trail through their neighborhood. We were closer to home when we saw her, though. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful animal Kenya has to offer: the giraffe. She’s so graceful and kind you almost think you can walk up to her and give her a big hug. I was wondering when I looked at her this morning what more could I ask God to give me this Christmas? I was racking my brain for what gift I could have received in the states that would compare the simple beauty of seeing this giraffe eat the leaves from the top of a tree. The gift reminded me that God knew me intimately and deeply – he knew that I loved and he wanted to give it to give it to me as a gift of love.

As I’m sitting here in my house and seeing a thunderstorm blow in from the plane, I’m thinking also of the gift this year that I won’t soon forget. I think it even tops this morning’s giraffe. Yesterday, not too long after lunch, I was walking with some of my friends into the village where I could get cell phone service to call my family and Helen. Along the dust path, we walked past five or six Maasai girls that were still all dressed up from church earlier that day. They stopped to greet us and say “how-a-youuuu,” as they looked to the ground so we could touch the top of their heads – a typical Maasai way for them to show respect. “Very good, thank you,” I replied as we passed them. And then, just as we were walking away, I turned around and said, “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas to you,” they replied, almost in unison and smiling big as though I had just given them the perfect gift.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

yawn, scratch head, post blog

I just woke up a bit ago and figured I'd post a note. I arrived in Nairobi last evening and stayed at a guest house with a couple of my friends from NMSI. My travels here were uneventful. Well, there was the old lady who sat directly behind me that despised me when I put my seat back - enough to actively KICK my seat repeatedly while I was not in the full, upright position. I know what you must be thinking - she's old and undoubtedly harmless and I should just respect her by keeping my seat up. Which is what I did for about 5 hours, but this lady was not harmless. I'll leave it at that. Ultimately, she won and I put my seat upright after a bit.

Kenya is so beautiful and I didn't realize that I missed it so much until I got back here yesterday. I'm feeling lazy this morning and can't decide if I want to crawl back in bed or go have one of those delicious doughnuts they're cooking downstairs. I guess I could multitask and do both.

Much love,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This and that

Just a few things before I leave for Kenya next week.

1. I'll be there for 5 months (December 2 - April 29, 2009) and really looking forward to working with AfricaHope again.

2. The world doesn't stop turning when I'm there, so feel free to e-mail, call, or good 'ole snail mail (my contact info is at the bottom of this page.)

3. Helen and I are counting down the days before our wedding (214 days left!) but not looking forward to being apart for the next 5 months. She is going to be in Africa for a bit while I'm over there, but she's going to Gabon (West Africa) and she insists that the continent is large and not suited for "popping in to say hi" to the tune of an extra $1,000. I have to say, I see her point.

4. Please, please, if you want to receive e-mail updates from me or would like to receive my newsletter via mail (and they're pretty interesting, I might add), please send me the following information:

Your Name
1234 Humble Abode Ave.
Your City, ST(ate) 12345

(000) 867-5309 (your tele if you want me to have it)


(if you don't know if you're on my contact list, send it to me anyway and I'll do the checking :-)



Shane Kingery
P.O. Box 847
Narok, Kenya

*Keep in mind, it takes 2-3 weeks to receive mail from the U.S. and it's a good idea not to send me boxes. If you want to send me anything (like peanut or dark chocolate M&M's - I'm just say'in) it's best to do that in a padded envelope and not sent it later than early April so that I get it...
(e-mail me and I can send you my phone number)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A few things you may not know about missionaries:

They can have fun.

They don't make all their own clothes.

They get regular haircuts.

They all hate support raising.

They love all their supporters.

They predominately use Macintosh computers.

Many of them (i.e. me) like to call themselves 'global-minded individuals' to cut down on churchy words.

They use the word 'mish' to make 'missionary' sound more hip. (Is the word 'hip' still hip? It was in ages ago, then it went out, then in again. I think it's on its way out yet again.)