A Day of Dancing

Today we started the day by going to the Sunday service at CuCu’s church. They greeted us with singing in Swahili and we joined in as best we could. We learned the tunes and the dances they performed, and it honestly felt silly at first to be dancing, jumping, and singing with the local people very loudly. But it eventually didn’t feel that way; it felt joyful and happy and I felt God’s presence all the same. I realized that if God lets us feel peace and joy and happiness when we worship, then feeling silly and being able to laugh in worship is something that God wants us to feel too. After all, God does have a sense of humor. While I was warming up to this way of worship, I appreciated that the best worship is whatever worship brings you closer to God, and I am growing closer to God by singing and dancing with new people.

The sermon was also powerful because it was very honest and relatable. We talked about pizzas, the boogie man, and how to catch a monkey with a glass bottle. First, to be fulfilled is not to have more things or to always get the newest and greatest thing, but to be grateful for the things God has already given you, which is similar to eating only two slices of pizza and feeling good after instead of two whole pizzas and feeling very bad afterwards. The second point made was that when we were growing up as kids, we were scared that the boogie man or whatever monster you can think of would come get us, but eventually we realized that the boogie man wasn’t coming because he isn’t real. But God IS NOT the boogie man! Just because God’s judgement does not come immediately does not mean that he isn’t there, and we should not give into whatever is tempting us just because his judgement is not immediately apparent to us. Lastly, you probably haven’t ever tried this, but to catch a monkey, you put food in the bottom of a glass bottle, and when they reach in and grab the food, they cannot pull their hand out with the food because they won’t fit, and then you have caught the monkey because the monkey will not drop the food. When we give into temptation and grab onto whatever it is that looks so good in that moment, the only way for us to get free is by dropping the beautiful poison we have found and ask God to guide our hearts and hands instead.

We closed the service with more songs and prayers and following the service we went to CuCu’s house to celebrate her 94th birthday! We ate and we sang and danced some more in celebration of CuCu’s long and beautiful life. In the evening we returned to the Tocco’s campus where we ate and sang a full concert with the Lake Nakuru Choir. After all the dancing and singing, I can say that I got my steps in for the day.

Today was a beautiful and exhausting day. It was surprising and awesome to get to see firsthand how God, love, and joy are the same in every person all around the world. Dr. Zeiss got to say a few words at the beginning of today’s service that I think summed today up very well: “There is no man or woman, Christian or Jew, Kenyan or American; we are one in Christ.”



Heading back to Nakuru

Today was our last morning in Marigat. As we ate breakfast outdoors, we enjoyed the company of some beautiful birds and curious monkeys. Our breakfast was cut short due to some buzz going around. An army of bees took over our delicious breakfast that consisted of eggs, butternut squash, cereal, bread, honey, and bananas. We decided to be charitable people and shared some of our breakfast with the bees.

As we headed south, we stopped on the side of the road to buy some watermelons and local honey. We made another stop as we passed the equator. Many of our teammates returned to the small shops at the equator with improved bargaining skills. Vendors in these shops expect customers to bargain. People got great deals and even traded items such as rain ponchos and a calculator for small souvenirs.

Before we left the equator, we had an impromptu performance for the vendors. After singing a couple of songs for them, they sang for us in return. “Mungu ni mwema” (“God is good”) was the last song they sang for us as they sent us off.


God is good

God is kind

There is no one else like God.

Thank you God for these visitors.

They have been good to us.

Bless them as they go.

I am blown away by the instant connection that can be sparked by music. When our team sings songs like Baraka Zu Mungu, we do not sing it for the people, we sing it with the people. They join us as we sing, and dance and our performance is transformed into a joint celebration. We may not be able to hold a conversation or spend much time together, but for those brief moments none of that matters because we are one in song and spirit.

After a long bus ride, we finally arrived back at the Tocco’s where we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. We enjoyed tea, coffee, and good fellowship in the beautiful gardens. Some of us took advantage of the beautiful weather and breathtaking view to do yoga overlooking the majestic hills and valleys. Others had lots of fun playing frisbee in the open field as the sun was setting. We were very blessed by the delicious dinner that was prepared for us tonight. We had Chapati with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole as toppings. You could say that the chapati was used as a tortilla. We decided to call this meal, “Ken-Mex Tocco tacos”.

Tonight was another bittersweet night for our team. We have had the joy of having John Wheatley and Dr. Bradley with us for the first part of our trip. Both of them will be on their way back to Waco tomorrow morning. We spent the remainder of our evening saying our farewells and thanking them for their tremendous leadership. We reflected on the gratitude we have for the Bradley’s commitment to their ministry in Kenya. This ministry is a product of patience, consistency, and great love.


Last Day in Komolion

As the vibrant Kenyan sunrise overlooked our cleaned and refreshed faces, the students and adults got ready for our final day at Komolion, starting with a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs, wheat, cereal, tapioca, and fresh fruit. The breakfast tent was buzzing with excitement over getting to visit our newly-made friends again. The busses then made their way back to the village as a cappella renditions of “Great are You, Lord” echoed from some of the seats. We even made a brief stop to get a good look at three ostriches on the side of the road.

The team received just as warm a welcome as yesterday once we got to the village. While a small group of team members began to set up the medical clinic and a room for distributing baby clothes to mothers, the remainder spent a joyful time exchanging songs with the village people. Everyone was so pleased to see the children in their new clothes, especially the beautiful new dresses we had brought yesterday. We want to thank Cindy Sterling and her team of women from all over the United States for making over 300 dresses for our mission in Komolion.

Once the clinic and baby clothes room had been set up, families began lining up to visit them. making a line behind doors as the play team began their task of occupying the children so that their mothers could visit those two places. Using the supplies the play team brought for the children, everyone joined in on playing an intense game of soccer, blowing bubbles, skipping rope, and playing some singing games. A group of our Baylor students even had an attempt at a beginning music theory class, using solfege hand signs and a staff drawn in the dirt. Later this evening, so many of our team commented on how they saw so much joy being exchanged amongst the students and Baylor team. Meanwhile, the medical team, composed of three Kenyan nurses, one Kenyan doctor, and our own Lisa Monsivais saw over 200 patients from Komolion and other nearby villages. The most common treatments were for hookworm, ringworm, conjunctivitis, and urinary tract infections. We are so thankful that the Komolion  Human Development Fund was able to supply the medical supplies needed for this clinic.

After a successful morning, we were served once again with freshly cooked goat (which a couple of people compared in taste and texture to brisket) and chapati, with watermelon for dessert. The group then went to explore the shore of the nearby Baringo Lake, skipping rocks and taking in the view of the peaceful water against the trees standing amidst it. Once we returned to the village center, the children sang for us. The Komolion women, clothed in their celebrational regalia, then sang songs of praise. According to Zippy and Daniel, one song’s lyrics translated to “God is good, isn’t He?” They then invited Dr. Bradley and Dr. Dowd to dance with them, as the children and Baylor team cheered them on. After an enthusiastic applause, the Baylor team was then invited to sing some of our songs. As we sang, the clouds began to gather and a cool wind began to blow. God’s presence was stronger than ever as we finished our time by singing “Injili” together with our newly-made friends.

All too soon, it was time to say our goodbyes and gather onto our busses to drive back to the hotels. As rain began to fall, we shared many a handshake and a high-five. The children again followed us for the better part of a mile as we departed for the last time, some of them repeating lyrics from “The Coconut” or “Baba Yetu” as we waved back.

We had time to relax at our hotels before a delicious dinner of goat, chicken, chapati, lentils, greens, fresh fruit, and sodas for dessert! We then had reflection time, sang for our friends at Kefri (which they then reciprocated by teaching us some new dance moves!) and turned in for a good night’s sleep before a long day of travel tomorrow.

As we reflect on this bittersweet day of goodbyes, we are struck by our unity in our difference, and have grown so much to appreciate the way our Komolion friends live and interact with each other and nature. We have so much respect for the culture we have seen the last two days, and our own joy is simply a reflection of the joy we experienced on the faces of the Komolion people today.


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…


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.


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!


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!