take heart.

We stopped under a shady tree next to a vegetable kiosk in Isiolo town, and hopped out of the van to follow Henry, our tour guide to all our family members in the Isiolo area. We followed Henry down between two indistinct buildings, paint chipping off of their concrete blocks from the harsh sun, through what Henry called the “valley.” The heavy rains had completely washed away the soil, leaving the pathway eroded and scattered with empty bottles and labels that had been caught in the floods. On days that it rained the road was impassable.

The sign above the mabati church greeted us “Karibuni” and we took a seat inside the coolness of the dark. Paul Kagua, the pastor of Neno Evangelism Church, greeted us and sent Henry to get his wife who was busy at home. Ten minutes later, a woman walks in, shakes our hands and takes a seat as Paul begins telling us his story.

He always had a rebellious spirit. Much of it he attributed to an abusive relationship with his father in his childhood. Secondary school was a series of new schools, quickly followed by expulsion. Five schools, and nearly ten years later, he found himself, thanks to the generosity of a family friend who paid his school fees, finally a graduate of form four. They had met and married in the midst of it, and they found themselves poor and struggling.

It was in secondary school that he had been introduced to Islam, since the majority of his classmates followed the religion. By the time he graduated it seemed the logical road.

“Islam fed us,” Paul said, matter-of-factly. “And we were poor and hungry.”

He tells us of the years of being inducted into the religion, and then one day the elders told him they had chosen a second wife for him to take, to make him a full member of the family.

This is where his wife jumps into the storytelling, and you can see as the words come flooding in rapid KiSwahili, that the memories were closer to the surface than any of us realized.

She told her husband no, he could not take a second wife. A day later, while they were sleeping during the night, their house was surrounded and rounds of shots were fired.

“At that time we slept on a mattress on a mat on the floor, so they did not get us,” Paul recalls. Eventually the police came and chased them away, but the next morning you could see the light spilling in through the holes the bullets left behind in the walls of their home.

They decided to run. So they left all of their belongings and caught a ride on a brewery truck heading for Isiolo. In the end, they settled in the town of Nanyuki, just an hour and a half matatu ride from where the beer lori had dropped them.

She started a business selling charcoal and was quite successful. She was invited to church by a neighbor and this was where she first became a believer. For her, things were looking better than they had in a long time.

Paul, however, was on a downward spiral. He used his wife’s profits to get drunk in the neighborhood pub. It wasn’t long before he was addicted to tobacco, then marijuana, then being arrested for shooting up with madras.

She tells us of the countless times she was called to come a bail him out of jail, and everyone in her family and their neighborhood begged her to leave. “He is good for nothing,” they told her. “He is a worthless man.”

One evening he arrived home high, with a panga in his hand, and sliced her wrist open. He dropped the panga under the bed and she took advantage of the distraction to ran out of the house and find safety. She runs her index finger back and forth over the scars on her wrist, as she displays them for us to see, a visual reminder of their dark past.

But to her, they are also a reminder of how far the Lord has brought her.

“I just kept praying,” she tells us with the same fiery determination. “I just kept believing that God could save this man. That God could use this man.”

When Paul finally became a believer, she didn’t even believe it herself. She had purchased his usual tobacco products for him, and upon arriving home with them, he looked at her and said “How long with these things have a hold on me? No more.”

And there they sat. For a day. And then another. And even when a friend came visiting from another town with a package of cigars, they were added to the pile.

On day four she asked herself, “Lord, can this be true? Has this man really changed?”

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The sun streams in from the church door, and washes over the bible on the table. When first becoming a believer, Paul bought it from a man leaving town for two hundred shillings, and it is still the same one he uses today to preach to his congregation in Isiolo.

It has been a long road to get here, and even though they still face challenges, you can see the faith that has led them this far, is empowering them even now.

Paul laughs as she tells us, “Even now, the Lord has more things to teach this man, but we are seeing Him move.”

As we pass back through the “valley” to the van, I glance up and notice the sign with the large arrow “Neno Evangelism Church.” I didn’t even see it on the walk in because I was focused on my feet, on the shifting steps and treacherous ground.

I am so thankful for this woman, who reminded me what it looks like to be a person in Hebrews 11 in the world of today. To trust, beyond all circumstances, and beyond what all others tell you, that what God has said to you, what God has promised, is true. This is why I think it is so important to share our stories. In our stories is where we can meet one another in the beauty and chaos of this life and remind each other of the faithfulness of our Lord.

So, brothers and sisters, if right now you are in your own valley, take heart. Let this brave woman of God remind you. Oftentimes, we cannot see the destination when we are in the valleys. We are distracted by the trials and struggles we face on a daily basis. We can’t see the sign above our heads that says we are on our way home to Him.

I can’t even begin to compare my pain with what this woman experienced, but comparison is a poisonous game. It doesn’t make my own hurt, or my own waiting, any less real or important to my Lord.

I only hope that in the valley moments that, like this woman, I can remember to look up. I hope that I can remember that where the Lord is leading me is for my good and for His glory. I hope He will give me the strength and steadfastness to simply believe. And I hope that I can trust above all that the His promises are just as true for me as they are for Paul Kagua and his beautiful wife.

So whether it seems as though you are descending into the deepest cavern, or climbing what seems like the steepest mountain, I remind you, as this woman reminded me, to persevere. Because our God writes His story of redemption into our lives every day. Even if we don’t see it today, or tomorrow, or in three years, we are promised victory in the end through the blood of the lamb.

Take heart, for He has overcome the world.

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he is doing great things.

“The Lord has been giving me a picture that we should be patient,” Pastor Dionisio Mugendi tells Director Paul Njuguna as they sit inside Bread of Life Centre Church Maua on a Saturday morning. “And He is doing great things.”

Patience is definitely a word that would describe Pastor Mugendi, who has been faithfully following God’s call on his life now for many years. Coming from the small town of Kanyakine in Meru County, he first served under a pastor in the local church, until God called him to evangelize in the surrounding valleys and hills.

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Pastor Mugendi comes to the door of the van to welcome the visitors from Divine Providence Training Center. Mugendi just finished the second session of his first year at the Bible School.

 

“My greatest passion is for people to receive Christ,” he tells me with a smile that rarely leaves his face. “I love to tell people about Christ, and even if one week goes by and someone has not come to know [him], I feel sick.”

Even upon arriving to his first session at Divine Providence, he stuck up a conversation with a motorbike driver, asking if he knew where the school was located.

The driver responded yes, saying, “I am [the pastors’] driver!”

Mugendi responded with, “Since you have been driving the big men of God, have you given your life to Christ?”

At this point several other motorbike drivers had gathered with them at the gates of Camp Chemi Chemi.

“No, but I am thinking about it,” one said.

“I don’t know how…” responded a second.

Next thing you know, their motorbike helmets have been removed and Mugendi is praying with three of the drivers who expressed a desire to accept Christ as their Savior. He still communicates with them today, checking to see if they have been able to get connected with a local congregation, so that they can be discipled in their faith.

The streets of Maua from inside Bread of Life Centre church.

The streets of Maua from inside Bread of Life Centre church.

Now Mugendi has been serving in a town called Maua. One of the main issues in this area is a crop called Miraa. The leaves of the tree act as an extreme stimulant when chewed, and so many people have come to abuse it as a drug. It has become so popular that it is now Maua’s main cash crop, and many people are harvesting it and exporting it to other parts of the country and even the world.

“There is so much resistance to the Word of God. In order to be accepted into the community, you must not speak out against Miraa. They know, if you are born again, that you will not agree.”

Even though he faces a lot of opposition, Mugendi has been patient, and you can see that the Lord has done great things. He tells story after story of the Lord’s faithfulness in this small church of only about twenty members.

“We did not have any seats,” he says. “Then one day a man comes and says, ‘Are you Mugendi?’

I told him, ‘Yes.’

‘I have been told to deliver these thirty seats to you.’

I asked him who paid him, and he said he did not know, he was only told to deliver them.

I still do not know who it was, but I thank the Lord that He provided.”

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The plastic chairs that unexpectedly arrived at the door of Bread of Life Centre Church. Mugendi sees these chairs as just one of the ways the Lord has shown His faithfulness in providing for the church plant.

 

Another time there was a man from Nairobi who was in town visiting his parents. He walked into Bread of Life Centre on Sunday morning, where Mugendi was sharing a message about God’s divine favor. The man returned that week to Nairobi and found out that he had been given a plot of land near his parents home in Maua. He immediately tracked down Mugendi and told him that he wanted to bless him with a portion of the land for faithfully speaking God’s prophesy into his life.

Mugendi proudly shows us around his shamba.

Mugendi proudly shows us around his shamba.

Mugendi shows us proudly the plot of land where he plans on building a home for his family so they can move from their rental home in town, and his wife Esther, cuts down sugar cane for us to take on the journey back to Camp Chemi Chemi.

Since attending DPTC, Esther says she has seen “a renewed commitment and seriousness in his ministry.”

Mugendi’s daughter Diana runs out to give her mother a hug before she walks the visitors out to say goodbye. Mugendi, his wife and two children, currently rent this house in town, but are hoping to one day build a home on the plot of land they have received.

Mugendi’s daughter Diana runs out to give her mother a hug before she walks the visitors out to say goodbye. Mugendi, his wife and two children currently rent this house in town, but are hoping to one day build a home on the plot of land they have received.

Mugendi first heard about the school from DPTC alumni Titus Kimathi who he has known for over fifteen years. Titus told him, “Pray that you will have a chance to study here.” Mugendi did, and now as a member of the fourth class of DPTC, he is excited about all of the new things he is learning.

“When you have been in ministry a long time, you think that the way you have been doing things is the only way or is the correct way, just because that is the way it has always been done. It isn’t until you have the opportunity to learn how things actually should be done, for example in church leadership or structure, and then you realize [that isn’t true].”

Mugendi still feels he has a lot to learn, but he is certainly up to the task.

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Pastor Mugendi and his wife, Esther. Pastor Titus Kimathi was standing off to the side and as they went to smile for the picture shouted, “Give her a big smooch!” This was their reaction.

 

be still.

Staring at my calendar, all of the red and green boxes marking appointments and schedules make it seem like Christmas has come in October.

I mean, I know I took the day off today, but I don’t have to leave for my flight until 1 pm, so I’ll pack when I get home at 10pm, then if I wake up at 7, I can get in a half a days work, have time to grab lunch, cut my own bangs since I haven’t cut my hair in months, go on a walk with the dogs, and clean my entire apartment before I leave, right?!

This was seriously the thought process in my head a couple of weeks ago. Logical, right?

Not.

And I know this. Logically, really, I do. And yet, before I know it, every day for the next three months is filled to the max with work and events and expectations of things that people NEED me for.

The people pleaser in me is reveling. Nevermind the fact that this process for endless weeks and months at a time leaves my soul shriveled like a raisin.

I’ve never been very good at being still.

I come from a family of movers and shakers. For those of you who’ve met my mom, you know I’m not lying. The woman wakes up at 6am and by 1am when she’s finally back in bed has accomplished more than some people may accomplish in three weeks time. And she does this every day. Monday through Sunday. Without fail. Both of my parents are hard-working, self-motivated, go-getters.

And that’s a great thing.

But God has been teaching me some new old things lately. I say new old, because it’s not that I haven’t heard it before. Maybe before I brushed it off as “not my issue.” Let’s be real…I was just in denial.

I always think I have more time than I do. I always think I can fit just one more thing into my day. I always think “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” And I NEVER want to say no.

I’m always running, always striving, always going.

And some times that’s great. I love this crazy, beautiful, busy life of mine. God gave me this one life and I want to soak up every little bit of it that I can. I want to see historic landmarks, and visit museums, and climb mountains, and eat food so good it brings tears to my eyes, and drink great wine, and breathe fresh air, and appreciate quality films, and dance at concerts of my favorite bands, and drive with the windows down singing at the top of my lungs, and travel to foreign countries, and sit in backyards and BBQ with friends. I want to laugh more than I cry and I want to love people where they are. I want to make moments that matter.

But sometimes I get so caught up in the bustle and the excitement of it all, that I miss experiencing these things fully and deeply.

And lately I’ve found that when I run so much, I’m just running for the sake of running. Because it’s what I’ve always done, or because I don’t know what else to do. Because who would I be if I wasn’t running, achieving, doing.

And sure, there are some things I want to run from feeling deeply. There are some things I think, if I do enough things, I won’t have to feel this way. I run from fear and rejection and pain and loneliness and frustration and anxiety…you name it. Maybe I’m the only one, but I doubt it.

The unfortunate part is that when I run from these things I also run from joy and peace and truth and community and love. I run from the lessons the Lord is trying to teach me. I run from experiencing the deep, tough work He is doing in my heart. I’m running from Him.

And then after maybe days, or weeks, or months of running I find a tired, wrung-out, frustrated and frayed Elissa. I find a person who isn’t living out of a place of wholeness, but is scrambling to hold the broken pieces together before someone notices.

And in the moments when I come to this realization, I find myself sinking in an ocean of grace again. Because, oh how He loves. Oh how He pursues. Oh how He sees me even when I do my best to move so fast I think no one will notice.

And the words He has been speaking to me over the last three months have been the same over and over.

Be still.

Still?!

Yes, be still.

“Be still and know that I am God” is what the scripture says.

And it’s going to take practice, this act of stillness. Taking days, or moments, of Sabbath requires discipline. In a book I recently read, Dallas Willard says this of rest and Sabbath:

“This will be pretty scary at first for most of us. But we must not try to get God to “do something” to fill up our time. That will only throw us back into work. The command is ‘Do no work.’ Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing. Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.

Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. You will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Joy and peace will begin to bubble up within you. Praise and prayer will come to you and from within you. With practice, the ‘soul anchor’ established in solitude will remain solid when you return to your ordinary life with others.” (The Great Omission)

Stillness requires a lot of things that are challenging to me, to say the least. It requires patience. It requires finding beauty in the pain, and joy in the waiting.

Stillness requires leaning in to all of it. Opening myself to the full range of pain and joy and anxiety and peace and everything in between.

But it doesn’t require me to do any of this on my own, no matter how many times Satan whispers that lie into my ear.

Stillness, above all, requires leaning into Him and knowing who He is. It means trusting above all that the Lord is faithful. He is the God who sees. He fulfills His promises. He is good. And He is sovereign.

I recently was doing a devotional and the statement that stood out was from the writer’s bio at the bottom:

“She is a productive lady, but that is not what defines her—[her] heart beats for Jesus and His daughters, and that’s what makes her incredible.”

I love that. I hope people can say that about me. I don’t want to be a frayed and frazzled person my whole life. I want to be someone who is passionate about life and loving other people. Someone who can handle the chaos AND the silence with grace and charisma. As my favorite author, Shauna Niequist says, a person who is “present over perfect.” And what better time to start then now?

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abide.

I’ve become a bit of a world traveler these days. A citizen of the world, if you will.

Not really sure how it happened.

I’ve now lived five and a half months in another country.

There are some struggles to living half of your life in one place and half in another.

For starters, prepaid cell phone plans are my jam. My passport is a regular purse item. The world clock on the iPhone is pretty much a must. I switch between being a person who has goats to being a person who drives a minivan.

I sat down last month and made a tentative plan for the next year of my life (I know, I know, God is laughing…) and almost every month had two options: (a) what I would do if I was living in Kenya and (b) what I would do if I was living in the US. It was overwhelming.

Then the other day Sarah, our wonderful cook at Chemi Chemi, asked me, “Are you excited about going home?”

I stood there trying to figure out how to answer her.

“I am home,” was my response. It shocked even me.

I went on to explain…when I left for Kenya in February, half of me was filled with excitement and possibility and the other half felt like I was losing all the people I value. I was ready to see what new adventures the Lord had in store in Africa, but I was so sad that it meant giving up precious moments with the people I love in the US…birthdays I wouldn’t be there to celebrate, weddings I would miss, the birth of my new niece that I wouldn’t get to see, …

Georgia is my home. Why? Because so much of my life has been lived between those state lines. So many adventures and smiles have happened there. The people I love are there…almost all of my friends and family that, since time is not infinite, I want to spend any moments I can with them. In Georgia I experienced love, heartbreak, and a world of other emotions that helped me to become who I am. Georgia is where I first learned that the Lord loves me, and it’s where I first met people who showed me what that looks like in the lives we bustle through every day.

So, yes, going back makes my heart full. I can’t wait to hug these people that I’ve only spoken to through the phone or over Skype. I can’t wait to not just see wedding pictures, but to actually be there as my friends take one of the biggest steps in their lives. I can’t wait to eat Chickfila, and to worship on the front porch in Athens, and to place my seat in the line of beach chairs with seven of my closest friends as we start new books and bury our toes in the sand.

But am I sad to leave Kenya? Of course.

Kenya is also my home. I have another family here. I have an entirely other set of friends. I have people that I dance in the kitchen with, ones who put up with my singing loudly in the car, and ones who notice when I’m not in church on Sunday. This is where I felt called to go my freshman year of college, never having heard the Lord spoken so clearly or loudly before. It is where these beautiful people captured my heart. It is where the Lord called me back to last year. It is where I have stumbled ungracefully through trials and learned great lessons about myself and about who the Lord is.

So leaving here, for whatever amount of time I do, I will also miss many things. I will miss weddings. I will miss classes with the pastors I love like brothers and sisters. I will miss moving the chairs on Sunday mornings so there is more room to dance. I’ll miss my favorite Kenyan foods like chapati and sukuma. I will miss hearing Stella sing praise as she washes the dishes. I will miss the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen, and I will miss the sound of beating drums and the calm flow of life.

It’s easy to feel fractured when you have two homes…like they are rock ’em sock ’em robots competing for your time and attention. You cannot fully experience one without, in a sense, abandoning the other. And it makes it harder to live fully engaged in either place, because you’re always feeling the pull of the other.

But then I remembered the beauty of this simple word: abide.

And Jesus says to me, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.

Live in my love, he tells me. Make your home in my love.

It really is that simple isn’t it? My home is where He is. And He is with me always.

Breathing in this truth is what makes me okay that I don’t know where or in what country I’m going to spend the next year of my life. Well, let’s be real…I don’t even know that for sure about tomorrow. But I know He will be there. And that is where I want to be.

“Abide in me and I will abide in you.”

That is the best home I could ever ask for. To live in His grace, His truth, His mercy, His love.

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kisumu.

Had the opportunity to travel to Kisumu this past weekend to visit Pastor James Wanyama and his ministry in Kiboswa. The tilapia, Lake Victoria, and his beautiful church family were well worth the 16 hours on the bumpy Kenyan roads. These are a few images and stills from the video I shot. The video should be done soon and I will make sure to post it when it is!

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True Identity.

Had the privilege of getting to spend a few weeks with Remco and Jennifer Brommet in June. Jennifer is the founder of True Identity Ministries and first came to bring the message of True Identity to Kenya about two years ago. Since then, her husband Remco developed a curriculum for men called “True Men.” In June we took two groups of 20 plus pastors through the material, and here are a few images from some of their activities…

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“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

-2 Corinthians 5:17

i believe, help my unbelief.

So when I first found out I would be in Kenya this year the month that I dreaded the most was April. In February we had the very first pastor’s school for this class, so I knew I would be really busy leading up to that and then there were the elections when I would be staying with Paul’s family in the country. And my friend Erika was here for at least part of March.

But April. Oh April. It was looming over me like a cloud of boredom and loneliness. Not to mention the fact that April is the rainy month and last year was rumored to have rained every single day for an entire month. I was going to slip into a low grade depression, I just knew it. Not one thing was scheduled to happen until the very end of the month and the beginning of the next school session, and although I had plenty of work to fill in my days, I was terrified of the thought of spending that much time by myself. I’m just not very good at being alone. I love to have people around me, to laugh with and cook for. I was starting to sound like Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun where she shouts, “How stupid are you?! You bought a house for a life you don’t have!” Except mine sounded more like this, “How stupid are you?! You moved to Africa for a life you don’t have!”

Now, I wasn’t about to start praying to Saint Lorenzo for someone to cook for, but I was beginning to doubt, to question. Could I do this? Am I even supposed to be here? What if I never have friends…like real friends?

But just like Francis’ prayers to Saint Lorenzo, my cry to my God was quickly answered when I realized I already had friends here.

So I instituted Friday Night Family dinners at the camp, when I get to sit with James and Stella and Samuel (and whoever else is part of the family that week) and eat and talk and laugh and just appreciate each other’s company.

And I went to visit my friend Kaelyn in Nairobi where her wonderful three roommates welcomed me with open arms and an open invitation to come visit any weekend I needed some American company.

And then the best of all…my best friend Allyson told me that her team from the World Race was going to be coming to stay for the month of April to help at the camp and do ministry in Matasia. Most of these girls have been on a team together for the past eight months in eight different countries with different challenges in each place they have visited. Emotional challenges, physical challenges, spiritual challenges. And they have endured them all by leaning heavily into their Father and by encouraging and growing one another through very intimate community.

I have had the beautiful privilege of getting to spend the last two weeks with these ladies, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

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One day as Allyson and I were sitting in the car, the rain drizzling down the sides of the windows, I told her about all the things I had been struggling with lately. As I shared my worries and my doubts with her, she listened patiently. She did not condone my attitude or encourage my behavior, but instead corrected me gently, mercifully.

We asked ourselves, what if we not only knew who God was, but really believed He is who He says He is?

I’ve heard it since my days in the youth group. For goodness sake, I’ve led groups of girls in DNows telling them, there is a difference between having a head knowledge of our Father and having a heart knowledge of who He is.

But how do we know which we have?

For me, I found out when I was dreading this month of April. Do I know that the Lord is my provider, my Jehovah Jireh? Do I know that He sees, my El Roi? Do I know that He is the all sufficient one, my El Shaddai? Yes. I know these all are the very character of God.

But do I believe that to be true in my life? Not as I should.

When I came face-to-face with a situation that challenged these characteristics, I chose fear and doubt over the peace and assurance of belief. And that act in itself is the most disobedient thing I can do. I am denying God the glory of all that He is. And this kind of disobedient and willful heart is what scripture warns me of time and time again.

I am just like the man in Mark 9…saying, “God, if you can.” Of COURSE He can! He is Lord. He has shown time and time again who He is and has told us He is Yahweh, unchanging and constant. And yet, I ask in doubt, “If you can…” I ask in doubt when I should be asking in confidence.

Thankfully, I also know my God to be kind and merciful. Apart from my doubt this month, He still showed me His goodness. Still showed me that He sees, that He is all-sufficient, that He provides. His character is not dependent on my actions or belief.

He brought me comfort, and joy, and love, and a whole new group of friends that I couldn’t even have hoped for or deserved. He brought me community. Not just people for the sake of people, either. He brought me people to laugh with and cook for, to grow with and learn with, to encourage me and to gently correct me. He brought me people to remind me WHO HE IS.

So next time I face a situation where I have the option to doubt the character of God, I pray for steadfastness. I pray for strength and confidence. And I echo the words of that father in the book of the Mark:

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

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(For more pictures from the past couple of months, scroll down!)

good light.

I studied photojournalism in school. Sure, my major was magazines, but I took a total of one class about magazines and took four classes on photojournalism. Technically you were only supposed to take three, but I think I found a loophole.

I just loved being in those classes. I wanted to soak up every bit of knowledge I could, and having a deadline for a class assignment forced me to practice in ways that I knew my own self-discipline would have failed to accomplish. Our teacher’s passion for the craft was contagious. You would find yourself walking around campus, riding the bus, strolling through the supermarket, with your camera slung over your shoulder and on the lookout for stories.

In the first couple weeks of class we were handed cameras, given a few basics tips and rules, and told to go out and fail faster. One of the things that we were told to look for was light, good light. Good light was sometimes predictable; you could find it early in the morning and late in the evening. But there were other times, too, that you would find yourself in a situation where the sun hits a stained glass window just right, or glistens perfectly on a reflecting pond, or illuminates the fly away hairs in a portrait making it seem ethereal.

Good light had a way of taking something average and making it extraordinary, breathtaking, and beautiful.

I have been in Kenya now for a little over three weeks, the longest consecutive amount of time I have been in a foreign country, and yet I feel like I have just blinked since I hugged my parents and said goodbye in the Atlanta International terminal.

When I got here, my schedule was already packed with plans for classroom furniture, a new road, bunk beds, meal planning, and so much more, but throughout these three whirlwind weeks there have been moments where, although the world is spinning by, everything feels frozen. Or moments when I know there is noise all around me, but instead I hear “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root playing like the soundtrack to my life.

Moments like when I stayed up late with some of the female pastors learning to dance like a Kikuyu in the moonlight.

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Or making pancakes while watching Tangled with an American friend, knowing that although we went to school together halfway across the world, right now we are here making breakfast on a hillside overlooking the entire city of Nairobi.

Or when you get up early to sing “How Great is Our God” with 26 pastors from all across Kenya and the voices echoing off the cinder blocks sound more beautiful in that second than any sanctuary choir you’ve ever heard.

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Or when a pastor shares his story of redemption from a life of darkness and addiction with such honesty and joy that you can’t help but cry.

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Or when you walk down a dirt road through the mountains to watch eleven new believers get baptized in the river to the sounds of praise and the steady beat of a drum.

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Or when your three-year-old Kenyan best friend, even though you speak completely different languages and probably only understand each other about a third of the time, crawls up next to you just to say “Nakupenda” and give you a kiss on the cheek.

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Or when after a long, stressful, and tiring day you look up and see the stars. All the stars. Perfectly placed. Not one is missing. And you have to remind yourself to breathe.

They are moments of good light.

They could from the outside point of view seem ordinary, normal. They could very easily pass you by if you’re not paying attention or on the lookout for them. But if you manage to capture them, to acknowledge their presence, you can see that these moments are made extraordinary by the power and light of love hear on earth.

Sometimes I wish my whole life could be made up of these moments, but that’s not the way life is. There are moments of fear, and longing, and sorrow, and troubles, and stress, and uncertainty. In those moments, I try to remember the light. I look back at those captured moments in my head and breathe them in.

Remembering that light, that good light, can change everything.

It reminds me that beauty can come from ashes and joy will come in the morning. It reminds me of freedom. It reminds me to sing. It reminds me of the kingdom mindset that sometimes gets lost in the wants and needs and worries of today.  And it reminds me that I serve a great God. A God of love and hope and joy and power and majesty…and light. Good light.