I went to Kenya for five and half weeks, and it kinda changed my life so ya, I wanted to have a whole page about it! Check out my story below!
I would first like to preface with this; I understand this is a long letter and our time is limited but this letter is truly from my heart, and I love you all and want to share my experiences with you.
Dear donors, family, and friends, After a little more than five weeks in country, over 3,000 photos, a couple of bug bitten girls, 2.5 more ✔ s off my bucket list, a 30 hour travel day to the states, being taught more about love than I could ever imagine & learning to desire God in a new way, the 3 Wzungus (whites) have finally returned safely home from Kenya! Well, technically I had 36 hours in LA, six days in Ohio to visit my grandparents, & then was officially HOME July first in Washington, and I started work & my online class that same day! Whewww! I actually counted the days and it had been exactly 170 days since being in my house & sleeping in my own bed, that's 10 days short of half a year!!! Oh man! I never would have thought that my freshman year of college I would already be away that long, but what can I say, I'm a SoCal lovin’, film pursuing (I had an internship the first two weeks of summer for my professor's set in Santa Clarita before leaving for Kenya), adventure seeking girl, who felt called to serve the Lord in Africa this summer!
Despite everyones fears and concerns about traveling to Africa amidst it's craziness, shootings in Nairobi, civil wars in neighboring countries, tensions with the U.S, & an Ebola outbreak *cough cough* on the other side of the continent from where I was residing, I returned unscathed, having only picked up a small cold (no doubt from the runny nose kids I played with daily), which was resolved with my Kenyan "Flu Away" costing about 100 shillings, equivalent to 92cents, and numerous bug bites (around 30), but have no fear malaria medicine is here, and I didn't even have to break into my anti- diarrhea meds, so all your prayers helped because God was watching out for me and my team! And I have to say, I was not fearful of any of these things, not only was I not fearful, but they hardly crossed my mind when I signed up in November and later left for Kenya in May. I think this was just another way the Lord was preparing my heart and a true sign that I was supposed to go. Yes, I had a few fears, but mostly just curiosities, and even then, they all seemed like a distant reality until I was actually in country and even then I didn't let these fears wash over and drown me in the past as my anxiety once did. Trust in Lord, He can be your biggest form of comfort of you just ask Him to. Trust me, I pleaded to him a couple times on the trip to comfort me.
Anyways, my intention for this letter is not only to thank you for your support either through donations or prayers but to communicate to you what I did while I was in Kenya but what I learned & how I changed. In some way I almost don't want to share because I know most of you will not understand until you are in Africa yourself but I’ve been praying about it so here goes nothing...
Until you have actually stepped foot in rural Africa, stained your shoes with the red dirt & breathed in the humid, mildly stinking of BO air, all your perceptions and preconceived notions of Africa are WRONG. Yes, it is crazy but not crazy in the way you are thinking, there isn’t violence laced at every street corner, animals do not roam wild, and every person you encounter is not diseased with HIV or AIDS. It’s crazy with busyness of the city, streets overflowing with people, colors, matatus, & pikis, a constant chorus of traffic, honking, people weaving in and out. It's crazy in relationships & love, we were endlessly greeted by smiling faces eager to shake the hands of the first white visitors, intrigued by their blonde, brown, and REAL hair, each accessorized with nose piercings and tattoos. It’s crazy in language & food, people easily gliding between Swahili then English then Kalenjin. Kenya is a beautiful country and certainly there is poverty, but that does not drive how people live. They love to survive, one another and God, and that was especially beautiful.
In no way was I prepared for this trip, spiritually or mentally. But that being said, there isn’t really a way to prepare for a mission trip, you aren't going to know exactly what you will experience, how the culture will differ, or the people you are going to encounter until you are actually there, so you just have to go and to trust that God will do the rest, He has a plan and sometimes no expectations are good. I’m not sure if I was too busy with school and my internship before hand or if I was too excited but I went into Kenya without any expectations, and for me that was a good thing because I feared and worried less. However, the trip certainly wasn’t a cake walk either. The simplest summary I give to people when they ask me how it was is that Kenya was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done but also one of the best things I have ever done. It pushed me relationally, spiritually, and culturally in a way I had never anticipated, God tested me, my patience, how I depend on Him, and how I worship.
I want to give some background on the places we were serving in and what we did there. We were in two different villages outside of Eldoret, which is in western Kenya about six hours from Nairobi, working with an organization called ELI, Empowering Lives International. Both ELI compounds consist of a school, a training center, a children’s home, a barn for cows, and an enormous garden. The first ten days we were in a little village called Kipkaren. Although our day to day schedule varied, most of our time there was spent doing home visits around the village. We went house to house all over the village, uninvited, and prayed for people. We also did devotions at the children's home and with the college group every night. Being with the college students was our favorite because we could easily ask them any questions about their culture and visa versa without too much of a filter. The rest of our time was spent in Ilula, we worked more in the training center and with the groups they brought in to teach them about gardening, baking, or raising poultry. We also spent a lot of time in the kitchen and the garden learning how to make Kenyan cuisine and planting seedlings. The children’s home, however, soon became our favorite place to hang out. Some days we would pick the kids up from school and play with them until devotions and dinner, or we would sneak out to the school yard and giggle and wrestle them at recess. My favorite moment from the entire trip though was one evening right before devotions. We were on our way to the children’s home after a big rain storm, and as soon as we turned the corner, we saw our little buddies waiting for us. The instant they saw us my favorite little buddy, Seth, came bounding into my arms, then our other favorites, Geoffry into Jaymes’ (he even managed to fall on the rocks before reaching her), and then Caleb into Savannas’, then they proceeded to hug and kiss us, and serenade us with giggles and worship songs.
One weekend, we traveled with the staff from Ilula we went into the Kerio Valley in a little village called Kapso, where 85% of the population is alcoholic. With the combination of the intense heat, the hundreds of grubby kids wanting to touch the never before seen white people, eating only bread, rice, & potatoes, peeing and pooping in hole, it being that time of the month for me, and sleeping with misquotes & other creepy crawlies in a random pastor’s house that could hardly speak English, this was the weekend we all broke down and lost it. Miracles upon miracles, Jayme’s phone had free international texting and a small fee for calling so I called my mom bawling. I didn’t feel useful, I couldn’t communicate with the people, and I was just one person in the middle of rural Kenya, inside the second largest continent in the world, among a population of over seven billion people. I have never felt so small in my life before. I was just one spec on the map like everyone else, why did God send me here and why does he love me? Multiple times throughout the trip I questioned myself, "how am I making a difference and why am I here, am I really making an impact on these kids, was my day productive?" Then I was reminded of 1 John 4:12 “No one has seen God, but, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Despite this verse resonating with me the past couple of years, I found God trying to teach it to me again while I was Kenya. It didn’t matter how small our task was for the day, loving the kids & adults we met, and sharing about Jesus from our American culture was a way to show them Jesus. It's frustrating though because I see the daunting amounts of people with pain and hurt in the world, and it literally kills me that I can't help everyone but we are not meant to save the world, He is and we have to help those that God put in front of us. That, is making a difference and is being productive. This idea seems so jovial or simple but until you are in a place like this it is so hard to comprehend, especially with the way Kenyans live and love. I pleaded with God to comfort me that weekend, and an hour later I was laughing and smiling again, cutting up papayas and oranges for dinner.
When we are stripped of our normalcy and our physical materials, and have nothing else to depend on, that is when God was revealed. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, I had such a closeness to God in Kenya and it scares me that the US feels so separated from Him. But that is why our relationship with him is so, so, so necessary. He is the only thing that can truly fill us, not a place, or a culture, or a group of people. As much as I love my family, friends from home and APU, and the Kenyans, they are only momentary fillers of love and relationship, my dependence upon them will always be disappointed by their humanity and inclination to sin. This is something I have had to struggle through this year at school because I am such a physical person, I need someone tangible to feel comforted by or to tell my problems to. But if I continually strive for a relationship with God, I will be able to feel what I felt in Kenya.
After the second or third week in Kenya, normalcy started to set in. Things didn’t look so strange, I started to miss home less, cultural things didn’t seem so radical anymore. It took us about a week to get used to their culture in addition to getting on schedule with the time and our daily activities, another two to three weeks to appreciate their culture and see God’s work, and by week five, we weren’t ready to go home. I think every Christian needs to go on a mission trip for an extended period of time in order to adjust to the culture and create meaningful and long lasting relationships with the people there. We as Christians need to step out of our comfort zones and allow God to be in control more often, I believe that is our biggest fault as Americans. Something I did not anticipate was how hard it was to leave everyone we met. It broke my heart while I was editing the videos or when I look at the photos from the trip. I miss also Sav and Jaym so much because they are the only two people that can truly relate to my experience, so please be praying for us as we continue back into our US culture. As small as our group was, we were and are so grateful for the size because the three of us communicated so well together.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind anymore that there is a God anymore. Before going to Kenya, I knew there was a God and that he loved but I never felt his presence so abundantly until now. I always felt a bit of fear and guilt anytime I asked him for something or messed up and sinned but it doesn’t matter because he forgives and he wants us to tell him everything. I seriously talk with him daily about every single worry or fear I have. God is alive and more abundant in Africa than I have seen anywhere else on this earth. My take away; Be more intentional, in your relationships, in your work, and time. All of creation is his, thank him constantly for this beautiful earth, and find him in every situation all throughout creation. Love God, love people. Do not take anything for granted, our day to day lives, as trivial as they seem from time to time, shape us into the people we are, every experience, every conversation, and every interaction matter so remove yourself from some of the distractions and live for him.
All my love, Rachel Mallasch
I could go on and on about Kenya, what we learned about the culture, God, and the people forever but I know you all don't have time and honestly I don't either haha. But we were living with Kenyans, completely and 100% immersed in their culture. So if any questions please feel free to email, text, or call me.
Africa is in my blood man Cultural observations in Eldoret Kenya (Work in progress)
Sometimes very good male friends hold hands walking or when they have been reunited.
Affection between the opposite gender is looked down upon. We befriended an American couple who had been living there for almost two years and they said that girls and guys holding hands was equivalent to making out in public or like touching someone inappropriately in our culture. Even Kenyan couples who had been married for years, showed no affection.
Hand shakes: 1. Normal American handshake but they will put their other hand about mind way up the arm they are shaking with as a sign of respect. 2. Women will shake you hand and then move side to side as almost to embrace you or hug you but it's not quite a hug. 3. Men shake normally then within that shake they move their hand up and then back down again. 4. Men and women do a swinging shake, really big with their body and arm.
Kids, 8th grade and younger all have buzz cuts. Once they go off to high school they begin doing things with their hair.
Adult can’t remember the exact date of their birth, just like when it is in relation to the season of the year.
Middle names, are Kalenjin and they reflect the time of day you are born. If you are a female your kalenjin middle name begins with a CH and if you are male it begins with KIP
one or two long nails to show status
men are always first
Being over weight shows your status
Okay is like really good
Certain ways to ask questions, how many kids do you have vs how many kids has God blessed you with
Age mates: group of boys in their circumcision group
Marriage Can't marry if from the same tribe Father owns the kids Dalryee
fungus on their heads, all kids are bald including girls,
most everyone wears sandals even in the rainy season
school-going all day
soda,chia, no coffee even tho they grow & cheap coffee like neslee instant if they do drink-drink
ice cream-too cold
no one really likes cheese, sugar isn't huge
Teeth thing Speaking with Kenyan accent BO We noticed this mostly the first week we were in Kipkarren, and I’m not sure if that is because it’s more of the bush, very rural also im not sure if our noses got used to it or if they were cleaner in ilula but i didnt notice it in ilula, only the weekend we went camping
-I’m not sure how often Kenyans shower. The weekend that we went camping, they had to use bucket showers -ilula/kipkarren they had showers
time/being late to church always
Street boys smelling glue
Not knowing the date if your birth
you are most welcomed
kids that lived at the children home but had biological parents were more in tune to receiving love, they were the kids that wanted to be held/won’t let go the most, see human growth journal from beginning of the year
silly is a bad word
asked us if our hair was okay
Christians with alcohol
maleria medcine/basically any medicine being hella cheap