A Time to Give and a Time to Receive

This morning, following a good night’s rest, a meal of fried eggs, and drive through the Kenyan countryside, we came upon the village of Komolion.  As we approached the outskirts of the Pokot village, we spied a unique and colorful delegation.  Dancing and singing, the people of Komolion greeted us with a declaration of welcome representing the highest levels of respect and trust shown by the Pokot culture. It has been two years since the Baylor Men’s choir visited the locale, yet those greeting us remembered the experiences we shared and were swift to resume the interactions, dancing, and music exchanged in 2017 (the children recalled with ease the Men’s Choir classic “Oba Se Je”).

As the 2019 Music and Missions team, our slated tasks for the day were to distribute food, clothing, and sanitary kits to individuals as well as prepare an educational building for a new concrete floor.  Many churches, families, and individuals have selflessly given of their own resources to donate funds and items, including handmade dresses.  Excited to serve Komolion, we jumped into our tasks with gusto.  Each member of the team showed their finest qualities of servant leadership by overcoming the logistical difficulties and resource shortages faced.  Members of the construction crew improvised face masks to address the dust created by our work, while the gift distribution teams worked together to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers to make sure each girl had a dress in her size that made her feel like royalty.

We were served a fresh lunch of goat stew and chapati bread, a welcome satiation after a morning of hard work.  Afterwards, we formally presented our hosts with a gift of over thirty goats to provide continued sustainability for the families of Komolion.  We concluded our day with a tour of the areas surrounding the school, including a Presbyterian church, the huts in which the citizens dwelt, and a medical dispensary staffed by a local nurse.  The trek was not easy for us, but it was made better by the company of the Komolion children who accompanied us.  These youngsters rarely have the opportunities to see their own faces, so both we and they received much joy from taking and viewing some quite comical selfies.

Representing Baylor University, the United States of America, and most importantly Jesus Christ, we arrived in Toyota buses at a remote village, equipped with gifts, cameras, and a carefully-rehearsed musical program.  Although ready and prepared to give, we also received.  During our reflection this evening, we shared with one another the gifts we received today, the cordial welcome, the afternoon meal, and the lessons learned from the people of Komolion.  The smiles and energy of the children (who ran alongside us for a formidable distance on our journey home) encouraged us to be as joyful amidst the struggles of our own education and future careers.

Our work in Komolion is not yet finished.  We have returned to our lodging at Kefri and Sandai, ready to rest and prepare for another day in the Pokot village…

-Wolfgang

The Smile of a Child

We awoke the next morning, having spent a great first day Kenya that ended at the Tocco’s, to the sound of birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the sound of knocks on our bedroom doors. As we started getting ready for the day, there were a few of us that decided to shower in the morning instead of the night before and, seeing as the water heater was solar powered, had to settle for a cold shower. Once ready, we made our way to the Tocco’s backyard and were treated to an extraordinary view. The Tocco’s place is located on a higher ground than most of the surrounding places and the backyard overlooks a vast, lush green valley that stretches for miles and is equally as wide. On the horizon, where the sky meets the land, there is a ridge of mountains that encompasses this remarkable valley. The day had only just dawned, but God was already showing us His beauty through this incredible scene. At 6:46 a.m., the sun began to rise above the mountains, with its bright, gold rays shining on our faces. Four minutes later, the sun was completely above the mountain peaks and was shining in all of its radiance. We thought we had seen the best view of the day during the dawn, but this sunrise blew it out of the water. Looking at it all, I could not help but admire the artist that God is and how He purposefully made all of the hills, valleys, and vegetation for His glory. We all cheerfully went to have breakfast, full of joy with the scene that we had just witnessed.

            Having finished breakfast and packed our luggage on the bus, we headed out to Marigat, a city that was about a six-hour bus drive away. On the way there, we stopped at some shops on the road. The interesting thing about these shops was that they were located at the Equator line. About half of the shops were located on the north side of the Equator and the other half were located on the other side. All of us went inside the shops and looked for things that we might want to purchase. Things such as bracelets, wood carvings, fabrics, and necklaces were being sold at these shops. Dr. Bradley had told us about prices and how they could fluctuate depending on who the customer is. Given that we are essentially tourists in this country, Dr. Bradley encouraged us to bargain. Some of us found success in these deals that we struck, and some us did not and ended up paying much more. After shopping, we sang a few songs for them and they sang for us as well. It’s not every day that you have a song sung back to you immediately following the song you sang. We sang and they sang; every time presenting gifts of music to one another. It was a beautiful display of friendship and love: to share joy together and worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ with the only tool that bridges gaps created by language barriers – music.

            Once in Marigat, we drove uphill for about another 45 minutes to St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy. Upon arriving at the academy, we were welcomed by a large group of children who had just gotten out of school. As we were getting off the bus, we greeted them, and they greeted us back. They were excited, their smiles as wide as they could be. We high-fived them and fist bumped them as a sign that we came as friends. We began to sing songs to them right there in front of the bus along the dirt road. They jumped up and down and began to sing along as well. They sang very well and picked up our choreography for some of our songs almost instantly. The joy they radiated could not be contained. It was a very beautiful moment that we shared together. We came to find out soon after we finished singing that the kids that we were singing to were from the school across from the one we were going to sing at. Nevertheless, we all had a blast singing and dancing. We then went into a house with a tin roof to find about 300 children inside, eagerly waiting for us to come in. Once settled in, the principal welcomed us and told us that the children of each grade have prepared something for us. We were treated to several different groups of kids with a recitation of what grade they were in and what their names were. At the end of the last group, we heard their choir sing a few songs for us. Their voices were so pure that it was hard not to stand in awe of their talent. Once they were finished, we sang a few songs for them, which they greatly enjoyed. Some even sang along as well. Before we finished, Dr. Bradley asked one of our own, Eric Amouzou, to come and speak to the children about his journey from his hometown of Ghana to across the world at Baylor University. It is fair to say that we were all blessed by Eric’s testimony and the way he delivered it to the children. Before leaving, we handed pencils, bubble gum, and erasers to each child. We also presented the teachers with a Baylor flag with our names signed on it and a plaque, saying that Baylor was partnering with the school. It was such a beautiful moment that brought tears to some of the teachers.

            The rest of the day went by fairly quickly. We were all so full of joy because of what we had just experienced at the school. Personally, the children were the highlight of today. I saw God in the smiles of those children. I saw God in the joy that they radiated. It was such a blessing to be able to sing for them and play with them. Indeed, it was a day full of God. There is nothing as pure as the smile of a child and today I was blessed to see more than 300 beautiful, radiant smiles of God’s children. Today is a day that will surely stay with me for a very long time.

-Waldo

First Day in Kenya

Today, we started our first day in Kenya! The group awoke at 7am to get ready, to load our bags onto the bus, and to eat our delicious breakfast made by the staff at Hartfield Gardens in Karen, the hotel we stayed in last night. Our breakfast consisted of samosas (meat and green onion stuffed pastries), mendasi (fried dough balls), hard-boiled eggs, sausages, watermelon, and delicious Kenyan tea and coffee. Before embarking on our trip for the day, we sang in full chorus two of the Swahili songs, ones which we have worked on since the beginning of the spring semester, for the staff.

            After riding in the Rosa buses (named after Rosa Parks) for about two hours, we stopped at one of the seven natural wonders of the world – the Rift Valley, created long ago from a fault line that runs through much of Africa. This valley was beautifully lush and expansive – we even had a chance to observe monkeys and baboons! Many pictures were taken and souvenirs were purchased.

            Lunch consisted of two turkey sandwiches, an apple, a hard-boiled egg, and fresh mango juice, all prepared for us by the generous Zippy Sindiyo, our host in Kenya. Our next stop at the grocery store gave us the chance to purchase tea, snacks, and African clothing. Finally, around 3pm, we arrived at Paul and Donna Tocco’s Word Ablaze Ministries. We are staying in beautifully kept dorms and eating deliciously made food such as spaghetti, meatballs, and more mendasi. The group had a chance to explore the gorgeous scenery around the Tocco house, play frisbee and UNO, and browse paintings by Kenyan painter Peter Mwangi who paints images of African people and animals. We are all prepared to sleep off the jet lag tonight and wake up refreshed at 6:30am tomorrow morning for our trip to the equator!

-Maria

We made it!

We landed in Nairobi a couple of hours ago and are settled at our first stop. We’ll be heading out early tomorrow to Nakuru! Tomorrow we’ll be starting our normal length blog posts. Goodnight from Kenya!

-Bryce

Eve of Departure

As we get ready to leave tomorrow from Waco at 6am, here’s some more details of what we’ll be doing in Kenya!

We will give concerts at schools, participate in humanitarian projects, and give music education workshops for an after-school program. We will be students as well, learning music from a choir in Nakuru and studying with singers, drummers, and dancers in another city.  We are looking forward to sharing our music with longtime friends in Kenya and to making new ones. 

Thirty-one Baylor students, three professors, a pastor, and a nurse comprise our team! We can’t wait to update you all on our travels.

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