Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I can feel the rhythm.

This trip has been 1000% better than I've ever dreamed. God  has a funny way of doing that. He has taken my expectations and completely thrown them away. His plans are so great and every day He proves it to me again and again. From the beginning God's hand has been in everything. Our group bonding, good travels, laughter, and overall experience in the village has been so positive and so amazing. My love for these people has grown so deep and I don't want to leave already!
There are so many things I have to skip over, and explaining can not express what it is actually like here. I think Tuesday has been my favorite day so far. It was a day of ups and downs for sure. Our team got to experience not only an extreme joy and happiness, but also heartbreak and pain of the level of the local people. Both of these experiences have shaped me and changed me for the rest of my life.
Fridays are usually chapel day. As a special treat for our team, however, they made chapel day Tuesday. What this means is that the "guitar man" comes in and plays the guitar, keyboard, and sings with the kids during music class and chapel at the end of the day. Music is a huge part of their culture and I was so excited to hear that we would get to be apart of that activity. We started out the day as usual with morning glory, chi, and mandazis. After that we went to our classrooms. Me and Stephanie are in the standard 1 class with Joseph. He is an incredible teacher, and has given us free reign over his classroom. The first day we taught every lesson which was crazy. Chapel day was a more laid back day though. It seemed like all we did was fun. We taught a couple interactive lessons, played games like Simeon Says and heads up seven up, but the part of the day that sticks out was music class. It seems like each child is brilliantly gifted when it comes to music and rhythm. Throughout everything they do in the day they incorporate singing. I find that so amazing. Between lessons the teachers will just initiate singing a praise song. They never forget that God is a part of their lives. Their passion is overwhelming. Anyway, in music class I got to hear the kids beautiful voices and witness the natural rhythm that they all have. Dancing comes so natural and to watch it brightens my day immensely. It was funny because in the middle of these 7 year olds I stand out like a sore thumb. I'm this white 19 year old with no rhythm dancing like a maniac! Even though I looked completely stupid it was the purest joy I have experienced. Just for a moment I felt like I had the child-like faith that they have, and that God desires. That was one of the high points of my day.
Another fun thing was recess and teaching the girls how to play Little Sally Walker. Their little accents are so cute and watching how shy they are is adorable. We also "balanced the ball" which is a song and is really only cool when you sing it with an accent. Everything we say over here we say in an accent too. Its hard for the kids to understand our American accent so we have all kind of figured out the African accent and how to talk slowly. Its actually pretty funny and now I find myself talking like that all the time. When I get back you will all get to see videos of these things! Our team has laughed over it a lot.
Chapel was the next part of the day. All the classes presented a Bible verse or a song which was really impressive. Even the three year olds had memorized scripture which is pretty special. It was so funny though because when my class presented I felt like the overly proud mom. I was cheering, taking pictures, and recording the whole thing. I haven't even known these kids a long time, but like I said earlier my love for them has grown deep.
Every day we split into groups and walk home with a child. The first day was a 45 minute walk which was a very long time. Tuesday, however, was only about 25 minutes. To get to the house I went to we had to walk through this overgrown cornfield and path. The trail was narrow and had a lot of hills. These kids walk this twice every day. It amazes me what they will do to get their education. Anyway, when we finally made it out of the corn forest the mother of the children we walked home with was waiting to greet us. She went in the house (mud hut) and brought us out stools to sit on. (We couldn't all fit in the house) The hospitality here is amazing. We sat there and just asked her personal questions. She was never upset or uncomfortable answering our questions even though in the US most people would be offended. Instead she answered with a smile of her face. The thing that struck me most with her was when I asked her if she had any hopes for her children. She said she had many hopes, but in reality didn't believe those hopes would come true because of their situation. Their mud hut was beginning to fall down, she was not married anymore, had 5 children, and was supporting them purely on the money she made selling fruits. They only had one pair of clothes which were tattered and the hut had only two rooms. Even with all of these issues she never complained. We asked what her prayer request was and it was just that her husband would come back to her. These stories are just so powerful to me. The people here seem so honored to have us visit them, but I don't think they realize how honored I am to visit them. I wish everyone could see the things I am witnessing. They have every right to be bitter about life and complain all the time, but I have not seen that once. I am astounded by that. As we left the woman asked us to visit again if we ever came back. I hope one day I get that opportunity. We left her house and found the other group who was visiting a different house. We got to see how they wrap the baby in the conga and also carry the buckets on our heads. We all tried, and for the most part epically failed. It was like a village block party. Everybody came out to watch the white people try to balance the bucket. Our teachers Mercylyn and Nixon then tried and showed us up. They were singing, dancing, and carrying the bucket. It was just a really awesome time.
The next part of the day was something I will probably never see again. A 7 month old baby that Chris and Lisa have been trying to help passed away that morning. It was very close to Lisa's heart because she not only loves these people, but also because she had been doing everything in her power to help this baby. There was nothing that could be done though. So at the end of the day the funeral was held. We got the opportunity to go and I am so glad we got to. Before we went Chris and Lisa filled us in on all the information about the family and what to expect. When we got there the women were all gathered around the casket dressed in their colorful clothes. We were told that the women wail at these funerals so I was expecting that. The outlook the family had on this child though was so eye opening. The mothers response to the death  of her child was actually "Now that burden is gone." In the US we have no concept of this. Here, however, death is very real. Also, when one is sick it creates a ripple effect. It is not just the sick one who suffers. Those who labor over the sick one also suffer. Its hard for us to hear that response, but in the light of the culture it is easy to understand. At the funeral women did cry. The men don't show very much emotion at all. They had a service which I could not understand at all because it was in Swahili, and then they buried the baby in a shallow grave they had dug earlier in the day. Music was also a part of this. Music weaves the pieces of their lives together. They express happiness and sorrow both with song. This is what made this day so amazing to me. I actually felt like I knew these people. I hurt with them, but I was also so joyful with them. Even though we come from two completely foreign places we have to much in common. Love is universal, pain is universal, and the rhythm of the music is universal.

I love y'all very much! I will be sad to leave this place, but also very happy to show and tell everyone about the amazing things God had done for me here.
See you soon! ish.

In Him,

Allison Stroud

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