Unforgettable Experiences: SLA Mission Trip to Kenya 2013

Courtesy of Journalism

Courtesy of Journalism

Every two years, South Lancaster Academy offers a calling to students to take part on a Mission Trip to a chosen place to lend a hand, strike an impact, and make a change. I personally went with the purpose to show God to people, but I was surprised that they too showed Him to me as well. On the afternoon of the 6th day of March, 2013, 46 individuals excitedly took off towards Boston Airport at about 3:30 PM, where we would be boarding a seven hour flight to London and then transferring to a connecting flight to Nairobi, Africa. After flying through multiple time zones, we finally arrived at our destination on Friday, March 8, at 12 pm Africa time. Tired faces gathered their luggage and separated into previously arranged travel groups to board seven different cars to drive to our final destination, Masai Mara, Kenya.

After driving the night and into the morning through dust roads and around several herds of elephants, giraffes, and so forth, we arrived at Mara West, the place that would be our homestead for the week. Our host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Aho, quickly welcomed us with a well needed breakfast. Subsequently, Masai women directed us to our respective huts, where we would be sleeping for the week.

Worship Group - Courtesy of Yearbook

Worship Group – Courtesy of Yearbook

Our goal for the week, along with building up the walls for the village school’s dormitory, was to bond with the kids and show them Jesus through every way we could. Even though we didn’t exactly hold a VBS (Vacation Bible School), worship and art times were scheduled for different grades each day starting with Saturday, which was our first head-on experience. In our previous Mission Trip to Peru, most of the students knew Spanish, which made it easier to communicate with everyone in a Spanish-speaking country. This language barrier was unfamiliar to us, but as the week went on, we made friends with them as if there wasn’t a barrier at all. Being in the worship group along with Lydia Felt, Isaac Valera, Roxanne Bruso, Raissa Silva, Rosalba Valera, Dylan Gibbons, and Sharisse Rivas, we had an “animal nugget” and worship talk planned for them each day. Even though we didn’t plan for this to happen, each of our themes lead to the point, “God Never Forgets”. We would start out by introducing an animal to them, describing it, stating fun facts, and then connecting the worship talk to how the animal represents a characteristic of God. When we first started holding worship services on our first work day, teaching the younger kids, who didn’t yet know advanced English, to follow along with our song services was an obstacle. But every obstacle can easily be faced with God, and we found different ways to interact with them, and they enjoyed the songs with us. Each class also ended up teaching us songs as well, and we welcomed each new insight into their culture.

When you first arrive in Africa, you get the notion that people might be friendly, but after reaching Masai Mara, your assumptions may be more than correct. Unlike America, people greet you with “Hi” or in Swahili  “Jambo” every where on the street, no matter if you know them or not. Sometimes, they’d even stop and converse with you. It’s a way different experience going from being expected to ignore everyone you don’t know, to going to Africa and run into unfamiliar people and be expected to greet and have conversation with them. This, along with many other attributes of Africa, was beautiful. When you live in a place where everyone seems to rush through life, with their mind set on a few things and having no time to appreciate the people and things around you, and then you vacate to a place where people that have never met you in their entire lives treat you like you’re something really special, it seems to make everything worth it. This is what showed Jesus to me.

Courtesy of Natalia Perez

Courtesy of Natalia Perez

There was plenty of things to be done in the work site. We would wake up every day around six thirty to shower, have worship, and eat our breakfast, arriving at the work cite at about 9:00 to 9:30 AM every day and work until about 4 PM. If you weren’t helping pass bricks to build up the wall, or stacking up the wall, or working with the worship or art group, you would most likely be gathering water from wells for the cement formula needed to build, or going on sand runs to collect a truck load of sand also for the formula needed to build, or helping out at the clinic site. For a small village, the number of babies born each day at clinic were surprisingly high, and our doctor chaperons helped share the load of attention needed by each patient. We made maternity bags for the mothers consisting of baby outfits, and baby caps, shampoos, lotions, and other toiletries. I never got to see the mothers’ faces after receiving the bags, but I hope it was of help to all of them. We also painted shelves and cleaned and restocked their storage room, and some of our chaperons helped build a roof for the new surgery wing.

Courtesy of Raissa Silva

Courtesy of Raissa Silva

One of many of Africa’s attributes that cannot go unmentioned was the scenery. Every single place you looked to at the camp we stayed was breathtaking. From finding zebras and giraffes outside your tent, to the way the stars popped out at you at night, to the shapes of the trees and the valley views from the deck and all of these flowers just growing freely, and the sun rise. If you have ever got up to watch the sun rise, it is nothing compared to the sun rise in Africa. The open valley view we had was gorgeous, and you could take in the entire thing. There is always beautiful things left in the world.

Our last and major bonding experience with the kids was on Friday, in which we prepared a “Fun Day” for them. There were multiple stations students were in charge of running: there was a game of soccer going on, some were teaching them to play hackysack and fly kites, some were playing jump-rope, others were throwing around a giant beach ball or going crazy over balloons. Each mission trip I’ve been on, when we each receive a goody bag with multiple balloons, College Church Pastor Pate always tells us, “give balloons to the kids, they’ll love you,” and it’s always, always true.

After “Fun Day” was over, we went around from village to village, giving around donated clothes to people in need, and there was lots to go around. The faces on the people that received the clothes were priceless, I’ll never forget the smile of this one little boy who asked me to switch a shirt he’d gotten because it was much too big for him. I looked around the truck for a smaller shirt and brought it to him, he kissed my hand and said “thank you”. Sometimes when you’re on the job to make a difference you don’t always notice how much you impact people’s lives, but there’s always someone who lets you know…and it really shows you that the best things in life are free. This was our last day with the kids, and the good-bye’s were the saddest thing I’ve seen. Some of them followed the cars as much as they could, and waved as we drove away. Even though we most likely won’t see them again, they left footprints in each of our hearts.

Courtesy of Yearbook

Courtesy of Yearbook

We were treated with a two-day safari towards the end of our trip, along with a pizza night, and an African dance done by many Masai men and women staying on camp with us. Special shout out to the Masai warriors, for watching camp for us during the night and protecting us against hyenas and lions.

On one of our last evening worship sessions together, Pastor Nino left us with something to think about: “It’s nice when we all get together with a similar plan to make a change, and we have done many good things here, but after we leave, will we no longer be motivated to keep going at home? Do we have to get on a plane and travel many miles to make a difference?”

God has a plan for all of us, and no matter how small it may be, each of us was born with a purpose to make an impact and spread his word. And even when you’re going on a mission to do just that, Jesus always shines back to you through the people you’re helping as well. Our hearts are like mirrors, once we pass Jesus on to others and plant a seed, we see him everywhere.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-Marianne Williamson

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Posted on March 26, 2013, in Top Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Mercedes Gonzalez

    Natalia, thank you for sharing your experiences! You are such an inspiration and I’m proud of you 🙂

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