The Tourist v The Resident

We often get short term visitors here in Kenya, some for just a night, others for a week. Not many come for a couple of weeks as they’re usually passing through on their way to another country. We always go out of our way for visitors, but I think they assume that’s how it always is. For our last visitor we bought bacon but I don’t think he has a clue that we only buy bacon once or twice a year – it’s way out of our budget.

We’ve been living here for 5 years and before that travelling back and forth for another 5. The longer we are the more interesting observations we’ve made.

 

Clothing

Tourists like to wear khaki coloured shorts or shirts. Naturally, when they go out on safari, this is the chosen colour. They also wear funny looking sandals. Too often, we see people wearing inappropriate clothing – like super short/tight shorts – it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

As a resident, you know to wear covered in shoes because its so dusty and the ground dirty. I’m always jealous of Africa women because they can get away with brightly coloured clothes. Me, I’m just emerging into florals. Khaki is only for safaris that’s for sure. Unfortunately we are seeing more locals wear shorter clothing but nowhere near what we see in the West – thankfully.

tourist

 

Photos

Yep, you can spot the tourists as they all hang their cameras around their necks. They whip out a camera and take a billion and one shots – without asking the person. They are happy to shove a camera in the face of a stranger and snap away and then wonder why the person asks for money.

As a local you learn pretty fast that you don’t win friends that way. No one likes having their photo taken without permission. It’s also not safe to walk around with a camera. Nothing says ‘steal from me’ than a camera on your body.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Security

I feel afraid for people when I see them walking around as it gets dark. It starts getting dark at 6.45pm and pitch dark by 7pm, it happens that fast – every day. I also see people on the back of motorbike taxis with no helmet or safety gear. It’s not like you can grow another head or anything!

Our daughter Liz travels lots of places on the back of a bike, but only if she wears a bright protective jacket and she has her own helmet. Once, her driver skidded on mud while he was taking a short cut and she ended up on the ground. It totally shook her up but reinforced the need for safety gear. We try not to drive long distances when its dark, there’s just too many people who walk around and vehicles without any lights to make it worth it. You have to have a plan if you want to last long term here. That includes not walking around when it starts getting dark. There’s been way to many muggings for that.

bike

Money

Tipping isn’t compulsory here but when you get good service, it’s appreciated. Our biggest note is 1,000 shillings, equivalent to $10USD. At one meal out with some visitors someone dropped in a whole 1,000 shillings, against our protests. For him it was nothing, but for us we could see the ongoing issues with it. The waiter was impressed because he was getting a great amount, but then it reinforces the thought ‘all foreigners are wealthy and we ‘poor Africans’ should be looked after’.

If we are just getting a coffee, we’ll give 50 shillings (65 cents), if it’s a meal, it will be 100 shillings ($1.30). If there’s a large group we’ll add another one hundred shillings. You have to think about the affect of what you do on the communities you work with.

 

So when you come, and we hope you do, please listen to us – we might just know a thing or two about the place, the culture, the people. This is their home, this is our home.

 

Advertisements

4 Things I Don’t Think God Really Cares About

I know God cares, but I think there are some things He doesn’t really care about at all. When I say ‘care about’, I mean He doesn’t mind.

 

1. What Type Of Music You Play In Church.

Pentecostal churches like it loud, more traditional churches like it, well, traditional. Sometimes they are quick to criticise the way they do worship. I don’t think God really minds at all. He’s more interested in people’s heart attitude and whether they connect with Him or not. Nothing must bore God more than some songs thrown together where people come in and go through the motions of ‘church’. He also doesn’t mind if you sit, stand, wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care or even prostrate yourself. You can have your hands raised and be thinking about the football.

 

2. If You Live In Africa Or America.

Jesus wasn’t blue eyed, blonde nor spoke in English. Actually, I know God is colour-blind. He reacts to people the same wherever they are. He doesn’t go ‘Oh, those poor people in Africa, I think I’ll love them more than the Brits because they’ve got more’. That wouldn’t be fair now would it? God loves everyone, full stop, no doubt. His love is not based on our need, but Him. Therefore, He cares about multimillionaires, those who live on the street and everyone in between.

Homeless in Hawaii

Homeless in Hawaii

 

3. About Your Age.

I’m not sure why people of mature age think that they are ‘more spiritual’ or in a better position to be used by God. God can use whoever He wants, however He wants. If we wait until we’re spiritual enough, old enough, rich enough or knowledgeable enough – we might be dead and in the grave. It’s about being obedient in the small things, regardless of your age. It’s not about how many years you’ve got but about who you serve. I’ve heard amazing things come out of the mouths of little kids and those well advanced in years. We need to get over ourselves and drop the whole generation gap thing.

old

4. Whether You Have Dreadlocks Or Look Like A Goth Or Skinhead.

Yep, God doesn’t care about your hairstyle. People do, but I doubt that’s high on His priority list. We live in a country where those who have dreads are looked at as druggies and ‘from the Coast’ – rebels. Personally, I’m not sure how on earth people with dreadlocks can keep them clean but each to their own. Even Nairobi has a Goth shop – imagine wearing leather pants in 30 degree heat! As humans we are quick to judge by the outward appearance. Once you get to know the person you find out what they are really like and often we are surprised by what we find.

tommy

Tommy Kyllonen – pastor in Florida

brian

Brian Welch – Jesus follower and founding member of Korn

Read THIS quick article about one woman in Adelaide, Australia and what she encountered on a train.

 

What else do you think God doesn’t really care about?

Let’s Stop Bagging the Rich

It seems that so many people are up in arms about Oxfam’s news release that 85 people own 110 trillion dollars. While I agree with some of their findings there were a few unclear issues for example not naming anyone on their list.

When I talk with former street kids who are in a training program, they will often say that I’m rich because we drive a nice car and are white. I quickly remind them of some facts:

  1. They have a roof over their head, education, clothing and training with the guarantee of a job at the end of it – all for free. So that makes them rich compared to someone living in a slum.
  2. Everything we have has been donated by our faithful partners overseas. We own nothing nor have the ability to earn money. We are totally reliant on our faith in God.

dollar

So what do we consider rich to be? Is it that someone has more than me, better clothes, a nicer car or endless cash to burn?

One thing I can tell you that poverty does not glorify God.

And why do we have the need to pull down those who have more, or much more than us? It doesn’t change our situation or our attitude. Yet in our eyes we feel justified by doing it.

If you take a further step and look at some of the worlds richest billionaires not all of them or even a fair percentage have inherited wealth. Somewhere along the way they started a company of some sort. For anyone who has started a business, you know it is a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. There are times when your business nearly goes bust and then times of great fruitfulness. Mostly though it’s just a lot of hard work. There are plenty of sleepless nights and way too much paperwork.

forbesI admire people who have been able to make their business profitable.

If it weren’t for some business people we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done. There are friends who have sacrificially given both from their profits and in hope that things will turn around for them.

What we need to do is stop judging. Who says you can’t own more than one house? Why not do such things as an investment for your children and their children.

We need to realise that we all have times of great need and great abundance. When we were youth workers in Christchurch, New Zealand there were weeks when we had hardly any money. As a mother it was horrible looking into the fridge and hoping that when I opened the door that food would magically appear.  We’ve had other times when we have had enough so that we could but things such things as a television or furniture for people who were in need.

I tell you now I would much prefer to be on the side of having enough to give to others than always in need.

Right now we are on assignment in Kenya, working with young people. One of our biggest struggles is that as part of our visa permit we can’t go out and earn money. Having to rely on others is a huge burden.

Our times of need are much more often than our times of abundance. Even this month we are not sure if we can pay our rent but we’re believing that by Friday the money will be there. Some people rave on about how they ‘live by faith’ as if it’s an easy journey. Trust me, it isn’t.

cashIn addition to not judging (because everyone has a story) we also can give thanks for what we DO have.  An attitude of gratefulness  helps us to enjoy what we have and stop looking at what we don’t.

Instead of criticising billionaires or those we consider richer than us,  let’s start learning from them and see what we can put into practise for ourselves.

My Butt is Numb

We’ve been slowly selling off our belongings, most for only a few dollars. It’s quite depressing to know that you’re virtually getting nothing for something you slaved your guts out to save for.
Tonight, someone bought our 2 and 3 seater couch for $30. After sitting on the floor for the last 20 minutes my butt is numb already. The next 5 days before we move out will be a bit uncomfortable, especially since I’m still doing all my admin work from home.

 

It kind of reminds me of how we have got used to being comfortable in Sydney and how cruisey it can get. Not that there’s anything wrong with comfort, I highly recommend it! We live a 4 minute walk from the beach, a 30 minute bus ride to the city, a supermarket 2 minutes from our house and stacks of cafes to choose from should we want a quick caffeine fix.

Living in Nairobi, while we will have a great place to live and the mall just up the road, will be uncomfortable in some ways. If locals want to rip us off, all they have to do is speak in Swahili and we wouldn’t know any different. We can’t earn money on our particular visa, so will be living frugally as possible. While there are eftpos machines, at most places you can’t use a credit card. A majority of the roads are unsealed so you often feel like you’re in a milkshake machine. We have to make a whole lot of new friends because we only know about 5 people in total.

 

So, we can either shrink back and say it’s all a bit much, or we can take the challenge head on and see what happens. As Pete just said ‘If it all fails, what have we got to lose?’

 

But what happens if we succeed?

Why we are a good investment

At present our support level is at about 55%, which is no problem because we serve a BIG God and He knows exactly our needs. I’ve once again started spending endless hours emailing everybody I know, asking them for $20 a month. Then I started thinking about why we are a great investment. It’s a good question to ask because why should people give us money to go and live in another country and totally depend on people for our survival?

So here’s 6 reasons why we’re a good investment:

1. We’re in it for the long run.

Travelling to East Africa every year is easy. You’re there for a couple of months, have quite a few comforts and know even if it’s tough there’s an end date for returning home. While this has been great, the effectiveness of your work is limited. The only way for a community to be developed is for people to be on the ground long term. It’s going to take us about a year to get used to how things really work, settle into our home and then another few more years before we get a good grasp on Swahili. While Rome wasn’t built in a day, we’re realistic that time is what we need to devote to our work.

I just read this quote from Paul Osteen who is a short term medical missionary currently in Zambia and it rang true for us:

The fact that wherever there was a significant, lasting work for the Kingdom, there were these kind of people faithfully serving.  People who have stayed the course.  People who have run with perseverance.  People who have fought the good fight and have not given up.  People who have put their hand to the plow and not looked back.

2. We’re honest and respectful.

I’ve always taken the aspect that we are stewards of what we’ve been given and it’s not really our own. Whether that be counting the offering at church, taking donations for water projects, working at the office from home, studying individually or using supporters money in the most effective way.

It’s this respect for others that has taken us a long way. If someone gives money for a particular project e.g. a camp for kids, then that’s what the money goes on. I’ve always taken accountability as a good thing, not something to be feared.We’re an open book about our finances and try to be the best stewards as possible.

3. We’ve got the goods to deliver.

We’re not going to Kenya because we have something to prove, to feed our egos or show people that we have something to prove. Pete’s 49 and I’m 43, if we haven’t got over ourselves by now then there’s something seriously wrong! It’s not actually about us at all, it’s about serving the leadership of Afri-Lift and bringing what we have to the table. We’ve learnt a lot and have some skills that can strengthen the work there. When the rubber hits the road, we’ve got the assets to make a difference. We are confident not because of our abilities, but because of the God we serve.

4. We know what it’s like to live with much and little.

When we came to Sydney nearly 11 years ago we did so with $3,000, no jobs, nowhere to live and knew one person. We lived for 9 days at the backpackers, Pete got a job within 4 days and we started over again. We had to go and buy a pot and some plates and cutlery to cook with. That one pot did an amazing job. Since then we’ve been to the other extreme where we’ve been able to bless people who were in need and even fly people to Australia for holidays. Personally I prefer to have much rather than little, but regardless we’ve learned to be satisfied with either.

People often quote the scripture in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you read it in context, it’s about living with lots and with little.

It’s about knowing who is the source of everything you have – Christ.

5. This is our calling from God.

While it shocks most people that we intend to go to Kenya for 20 years, few are shocked that we’re actually going. It’s been over 25 years in the making. There is no other option for us. Anything else would be dead set boring! It’s not like we’ve heard some voice from Heaven saying ‘You should give up everything and go live in Kenya’. It’s a knowing, a journey, an unfolding plan. Sure, there’s scriptures but they are more an extra bonus along the way. Are we called – heck yeah!

6. We’re tax deductible.

Okay, so it only matters for this if you live in Australia. What people don’t know is that to get tax deductibility status is a nightmare. Only about 1/4 of those who run charitable services actually get this status. Over the years we’ve built a good relationship with Global Development Group in Brisbane and now partner with them. What it does say is that we are credible and so is the work we do. They keep us both financially and project accountable. They visit us on the ground and make sure we’re doing what we said we would do. Every 3 years we have to submit a business plan and every 6 months a project report to see what we’re up to. These guys have really high standards and we’re proud to partner with them.

To reach our target goals, we need your continued support. It would be great if everyone who ‘liked’ our work on Facebook or read our blogs/newsletters/tweets transcended that into a few dollars. It means that we can achieve so much more. I’d love to have annual camps for kids who live in poverty, develop more youth leaders, hold more seminars and host more visiting teams.

Here’s an easy way to give:

IN AUSTRALIA:

Account Name          Afri-Lift

BSB                          032324

Account Number      235873

IN NEW ZEALAND:

Account Name           Pete and Sharon Crean

Account Number        03-1509-0037038-025

Please use your name as the reference so we can track your donation. If you live outside of these two countries drop me an email (sharoncrean@beyondwater.org.au)  so I can tell you the best way to support our work.