Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Birthday... Where Are My Presents?

I've noticed that Nairobi is quickly becoming very Westernized in the way that Christmas is being celebrated. And I have the unique opportunity to be part of slowing that down a little. I don't want 'Christmas' to be lost forever here. None of this 'happy holidays' and don't talk about Christ nonsense.

Don't get me wrong, I am all about family traditions and gifts (in moderation) and even Rudolph... cause, he's pretty awesome. But I think that Christians should not only incorporate the true meaning of Christmas into their celebrations but, *gasp* centralize their celebrations on it.

And so, this year, I am working very hard to celebrate Advent intentionally and share that with my church; Nairobi Chapel. 

Most people look at me blankly when I say the word Advent. Understandably. I didn't really know what it was entirely either, and it's something that we've 'done' at my home church for over ten years. It's not just about lighting a candle and reading some passages from the Bible. It's not about opening up little doors on your advent calendar and either eating chocolate or hanging an angel on some nativity landscape.

CONFESSION: I would usually find myself eating all 24 advent chocolates within the first couple of days of advent... ok, the first day.

So this year I am hoping and praying that as a production team at Nairobi Chapel, we can properly convey what Advent is. To have people join in on the celebration of what God has accomplished in fulfilling His promise. To join in on expectantly waiting for Christ's return. To join in on approaching Christmas with a completely different focus. No more, "Happy Birthday Jesus... where are my presents?"

And in preparation for the first Sunday of advent, we are creating a video. We may have been yelled at by bus drivers and almost run down by a couple of speeding vehicles, but it will be worth it if even one family is really excited about Advent this year.

Do you celebrate advent? What do you do to make it special?

Monday, November 4, 2013

I Don't Like Investing in Short Term Relationships

... is what I try not to say when I say things like, "I'm an introvert, I have to push myself to be social" or "I've had a long week, I just want to be around friends."

Truth is, most missionaries feel this way. Introverts and extroverts alike eventually get sick of people coming and going from their lives. We tend to stick close to those who are more likely to be permanent and hold loosely those whom we know will board a plane to depart just as quickly as they did to arrive. 
It doesn't have a lot to do with their lack of knowledge about their current surroundings, nor does it have anything to do with their short term agendas.

It is more likely that it has everything to do with the fact that as a missionary or any person who lives abroad, you have endured your share of great relationships who have been pulled away from you simply by the divide of an ocean... or a mountain, or even the scarcity of transport from one place to another.

We meet someone who we have a lot in common with. It could be geography, passion, language, list of movies, common holidays even. And then just as you think you've made a new best friend, their path branches off to a different set of adventures from yours, and let's face it: out of sight, out of mind.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Picking up the Pieces

The mall may be deserted and the gun fire has stopped.
But the influence this day has left on people will not be forgotten.

Westage Mall collapse
It has been exactly one week since terrorists stormed the Westgate mall in Nairobi and people are back to their routines. The weekend hosted dozens of funerals including the funeral of the president's nephew and his fiance which was held at Nairobi Chapel on Friday morning. I had the opportunity to help make sure things went smoothly and as the place packed with about 3,000 mourners and press, it was evident that last Saturday will be forgotten by few.

It is not only those who lost loved ones who will forever have it etched in their brains. It is also the ones who escaped that will grieve. They will need to come to terms with this experience and for a few, a lot of internal healing will need to be sought.

Today the state of the once very posh shopping centre lies in rubble (above) but it will be rebuilt and restored and enjoyed again. As will the hearts of everyone affected by this horrible event.

A friend of mine was in the mall with her children that day. Her photo was taken and her story recorded here.

4 year old Portia, running to safety

Monday, September 23, 2013

What God Hates

There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.
- Proverbs 6:16-19

Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with Al-Qaeda, is proving to be guilty of every one of these characteristics as they have unleashed yet another attack on unsuspecting, innocent men, women and children in Nairobi. This isn't new to them. Their game is terrorizing the globe. Pakistan, India, Uganda, Kenya are only a handful of locations where they have unleashed their cowardly killing sprees to save face of a losing battle against a world who actually holds human rights valuable. Their spokesmen continue to spew out pretentious small minded threats against anyone who supports taking down their terrorist group in any way.

Just thinking about this garbage makes my blood boil. I've been on Canadian soil when the US was attacked but this time, it hits even closer to home.

Westage is a four storey shopping centre, comprised of over 80 stores including a movie theatre and a two storey grocery store, on the west side of Nairobi. I've been there a bunch of times. Typically around holidays because the way they decorate the place always reminds me a bit of Canada.

The last time I was there I played Uncharted from a bean bag chair in the video game section of a tech shop and ate at Haandi where I ordered some curry dish in medium; discovering that their 'medium' actually means 'runny nose and fiery tongue.'

On a Saturday at lunch time there are thousands of people roaming it's brightly lit hallways; many of them families with small children. This is when the Al-Shabaab decided to attack. They didn't attack the Kenyan military, police or government. They attacked children, pregnant women, the elderly... They attacked Kenyans and foreigners alike. The current death toll lies at 62 with victims between the ages of 2-76. They killed anyone they pleased in their frantic blood-lust. And while they did that, they tweeted! Twitter shut down multiple accounts but they just continued registering and mocking Kenyan police as closed in on the terrorists and secured hostages. One tweet that was particularly piggish, "Westgate a 14-hour standoff relayed in 1,400 rounds of bullets and 140 characters of vengeance and still ongoing. Good morning Kenya!"

I can't quite wrap my head around how people are capable of this kind of evil. I don't want to get into the discussion of types of sin and how there is no grade of severity - sin is sin. But the Bible is clear: God hates what is going on at Westgate. Hates it with a passion. As do I. As should we all.