Being Home.


My Tenwek family is beautiful. It is made up of eager Kenyan children dressed in matching school uniforms running down muddy paths, dancing cleaning ladies working joyfully at the hospital, jubilant families leading us in worship at church, warm friends with whom I have never spoken an English word to, my actual loving relatives, and passionate missionaries with their giggling toddlers running close behind. Even inside of Tenwek, there are a mixture of tribes and colors–each having unique characteristics and their own beauty.

These are the people that I love, and will forever have in my heart and in my prayers.


Adjusting from Kenya back to America has been a slow process, mostly because I stiff-armed any notion of processing my experiences until the second week I was home. I don’t hate America. I don’t feel guilty for all the things we have here. It literally seems like two different worlds to me, without much grounds of comparison. Very much like one of those venn-diagrams—they are two completely different circles, but they still touch slightly at the “common ground” in the middle.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my processing will continue at a slower pace than I want. It’s not something I can just “get over with” in a couple hours.

One of the biggest things the Kenyan people have taught me from example is gratitude. They live with what they have, work hard to provide for their families, and give from their hearts without hesitation. They are prayer warriors. When prayer oftentimes is my last resort–the final ringing of the gong after I have struggled for a time to figure out my own way, my Kenyan friends go to God first. They never forget He is with them. This awareness of God’s presence and appreciation of His providence stays with me. Coming back to the US, the first thing I felt was a similar gratitude for the time in Kenya, a family to come home to, and a few weeks of breathing room before heading back to Chicago.

I honestly cannot say thank you enough. Thank you. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve been given. I know of less support than I am given, and that astounds me–for the number of people praying, asking questions, and rejoicing with me is great. I’m thankful for individuals who care, and also for a church family who wants to hear about what God has done and is continuing to do in Kenya. What a joy.

This week I’m preparing to share a bit of the story at Sunday church. Many have begun to ask me specific questions. If you have any, please, email, call, or show up at my house sometime.

I’m leaving for Chicago on the 30th–already six days away! I have a full-time job on Moody campus for the summer and am living in a neighborhood called Humboldt Park in Chicago. It’s about 20 minutes outside downtown and I’m living with three other girls from school. To say I’m excited is an understatement. Humboldt is a diverse Latino neighborhood and I look forward to loving on the people and being involved in the solid church they’ve got going there. I’m hoping to live in the same neighborhood senior year (so 1 1/2 years) with the Moody cohort program (allows full-time students to live off campus with the goal of ministering to the community there).

Please continue to pray for opportunities to love the community and follow where God leads each day.

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Little Ones

I don’t have much to say about Murals 2 and 3, except that the LORD has given me Joy in the faces of His little children. It has been the most dramatic change that I’ve noticed in me, since Kenya began. In one specific time of weariness and loneliness, I asked for strength and joy, “for the Joy of the LORD is my strength.”  What happened? 10 little toddlers came running down the hill (where I was sitting), ran up to me giggling, hugged me and greeted me. For the first time that day, I smiled.

May you find a similar Joy in these paintings.




“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:13-15

God’s DNA.


“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

I love this verse because it’s so easy to remember, but is so difficult to master. The depth of the verse hides behind its simple sentence structure; joy, patience, and consistency are all good things, and truly, God is the only one to give us Hope, He is the only one who gets us through affliction, and graciously offers us prayer as an avenue to seek His face.

These past two weeks in Kenya have by far been the hardest. I’ve seen so much death, but seeing two little babies leave this world seemed to trigger a time of remembrance and reflection upon all the deaths I’ve witnessed since arriving in December. I’ve realized that many, many experiences are only half-processed and I cannot speed up that process–no matter how many tears I shed or how many pages in my journal are marked.



Is God truly good all the time? This is such a crucial question–not just in times of trial, but in the bigger picture, or what we call “our faith.”  God has been such a patient and loving Father—putting up with my questions, calling me his precious daughter, and gently leading me to answers like, “My work is not done yet,” “You are not meant to know all things right now.”

Simply put, I am finite and God is infinite.
How can I even begin to understand?

God IS [infinitely] Sovereign and God IS [infinitely] always Good–because that is His nature and His work. This characteristic is so ingrained in the DNA of God, that even the place where He dwells is infinite–and He longs to bring us to that place. In fact, He is “preparing a room” for each follower.

In the middle of a crisis, hardship and burdens can seem to go on “infinitely.” The problem with that is that we have absolutely no perspective. As humans, we rely on time for perspective; God doesn’t because he is outside and beyond the realm of “time.” Let us not fool ourselves into becoming downtrodden and downcast when this life is just a mist that quickly disappears. As my dad puts it, the earth and this life is a pencil’s petty dot in comparison with the line of eternity.

I don’t know why babies die or suffer. I’m not sure why so many children are crippled by AIDS. But I do know that God is the God of all. They are His children too, and He loves them more than I could fathom. He knows them thoroughly and has “knitted them together” with intricate precision. I can worship this God. I choose to love this God and call him my God and worship Him for all eternity.

Unshackled.

This past week, I witnessed the power of God like I never have before.

A clear difference between America and Africa is the belief of the supernatural: while there is a rampant ignorance and apathy to any higher power in America, Africans accept and truly believe there is a God. I know my time here has not been extensive, but I have not met or heard of an Atheist African. We see this not just in Africa, but in Asian and Latin American countries as well. As a result of this, I have been noticing that spiritual warfare and Satanism is more prevalent, or perhaps more noticed in these countries as well.

I heard about this before coming to Africa by picking up on patters in my reading of Operation World. It evaded my thoughts in Africa until one month into my stay. The invisible warfare came to 3D life when we went mudding–the village school near the house we mudded had a school headmaster that taught children the ways of Satan. It broke my heart to think about the possibility of the joyful children I met at Agnes’ house being victims of darkness by simply going to school. That’s when I began fervently praying against Satan’s army in Kenya.

About a month ago, Linda, Peris and another short-term missionary Barbara began to meet with a Kenyan woman named Betty to free her from the bondage of Satan. Betty (not the one I’m discipling) is one of the three original members of the bible study that instigated the start of Tabitha Ministries in 1997. Since then, Linda has seen her go through 4 cows–one at a time they died of disease, sickness, or mutilation in Satanic sacrifices. Betty also was bothered during the night by people tapping on her windows and doors. Her son also saw men crouching by her window, chanting and whistling at nighttime. Barbara, being trained in deliverance ministry, agreed to meet with Betty to once and for all free her from whatever curses, spiritism, and darkness laid in her past by the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ. Hallelujah.

After many meetings within several weeks, Betty was freed and was filled with the Peace of Jesus. Her son–once a drunkard–has even come to Christ as well! The last meeting on Wednesday was at Betty’s house, prayer walking around her boundary with pastors from the area. Beyond being a witness and prayer warrior, I wasn’t involved in the meetings. Barbara shared with me that symbols in the supernatural world were very powerful, so I should paint something for Betty’s home. It would not only encourage her, but also warn any spirits trying to bother her in the future.

The next morning, I woke up with energy and inspiration. After two hours of painting, I came up with the image of a dove in representation of the Holy Spirit. It was to remind Betty that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is IN her. Satan and his agents are powerful, but not worth comparing to the might of our God. Praise the Lord.

“Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world” 1 John 4:4



Just like the moon shines brighter on a pitch-black night, the Power of the Cross has been revealed to me in an even brighter light when compared with Satan’s attacks. God is Almighty. I share this, not to raise sensational stories, but to make you aware. Please pray against Satan’s attacks on the country of Kenya, especially the Tenwek area.

So much JOY I can’t even handle it!
Betty put the painting up in her house right away.

I wrote this verse on the back. May its truth speak to you as well!

Kenya Paint It?

Christian Art.
[[can there be such a thing?]]

“In the beginning, God created..”  Genesis 1:1

Within just a handful of words, we are introduced to our Creator God–first and foremost a creative mastermind.

Art is a language in itself.  It jumps over barriers that verbal languages must come to terms with. Its words trigger the pathos, the heart, and the soul. Art tries to explain, express, and give attention to beliefs and feelings that are not satisfied when explained with words.

One could come up with a speech with bold and effective words, stirring a crowd up to action. Another option is painting a piece, singing a cadenza, or performing a grand orchestra symphony that stirs the heart and captures a moment in time never forgotten by the individual. When words fail, art speaks.

God uses art for His glory. God the Father symbolized His eternal promise in a rainbow, His eternal law on two tablets given to Moses, and His love in the shape of a crucifixion tree. 
God’s creation is a testimony in itself–a display of His existence, His presence, and His care.

The more I’ve explored the topic, the more I’ve come to realize that passion for the arts is fueled by and found in God’s own creative juices.  Junior year in high school was when I decided to commit every paint stroke and dotted line to the Lord. For a long time since then, I struggled with sharing my artwork. There were two sins I easily got caught into.

The first is the sin of comparison.
[[I’m not good enough.]]

As Christians we are called to be humble, but not to throw ourselves pity parties or comparison assemblies.
The second is pride. 
[[Look at me. Look at me some more. No really, isn’t it great?]]
Pride is basically the sin of putting yourself above God. It’s personal, self-employed idolatry.

Where is the balance? How do we as Christians share the talents and passions the Lord has given us with a humble heart and steady eyes?

I’ve come to realize both of these questions have one answer. We must keep our eyes vertical. It is when we limit our gaze horizontally–toward others in this temporary world–that we falter. Keeping our eyes on Christ is the only way to avoid glancing from side-to-side, checking if we are good enough, or better than any other.

Christ is first, and best. In the brilliance of His glory, we are sinful shadows. However, He sees us as precious. There is no reason for me to be prideful about my talents, because He is the best. There is no reason for me to hide my pieces, because He takes joy in them.

That being said, I finally am settled with the idea of sharing my artwork without doubt or fear. I finished my first mural last week. I praise the Lord for this awesome opportunity and feel truly blessed. I would typically go to MCH (Maternal Child Healthcare) at night to paint, so I wouldn’t disturb the patients and nurses working during the day. I’m not the one saving lives, but I hope that the murals would start out by welcoming patients to the hospital and leave them with a long-lasting impression of how precious God sees his children.

That’s my theme and hope for every mural I have the opportunity to create at Tenwek Hospital. The first [shown below] is on Mwanzo 1, or Genesis 1. The scene is based off of Maasai life [a people that I met on Safari] and the rest will be centered around Kipsigis, because those are the two main peoples represented in the patients.

The text is a summary of Genesis 1:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created the light, the land, the trees, the animals, and said it was good. Then God created man in His image; in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God saw that they were very good and blessed them.”


Mungu-God
nuru-light
nchi kavu-dry land
miti-trees
wanyama-animals
mfano-man

*Sorry, it was a bit hard taking the photos and fitting everything inside the frame because it’s in a narrow, high-traffic hallway.

Muddle Puddle

Wanna have a mud fight? Okay.

Step one: fly to Africa

…What?!

Yepp, you got it. Jump in a plane, fly to Africa, and turn your mud fight into something worthwhile: building a mud house.

There it is: a solution to every mom, dad, and youth pastor’s headache caused by immature boys (and sometimes girls) running around throwing mud, footballs, and lemonade at each other.

All joking aside, I’ve been in Kenya for one month now; one third of my time here has been spent. It truly has flown by and I have only just begun to reflect upon the past four weeks.  One experience that really impacted me happened on my “one month anniversary” in Tenwek (and it was better than any other anniversary I’ve celebrated, if you know what I mean).

In a nearby village, my aunt, four short-termers and I went out to help mud a house. This is one of the many outreaches Tabitha Ministries does for needy women that are apart of a bible study. I’m glad that it’s usually a woman’s chore, because mudding a house was one of the things I hoped to do while out here. It usually takes one month to complete the house, since you must allow several days for each of the three layers to dry; we completed the second layer (interior and exterior).

It’s quite the process:
  
1. Get water (a major chore for donkeys…or humans)


2. Mix soil and water for a good “mud-like” consistency (Kenyan woman did this)


3. Take out all stones, branches, and nails from the mud.


4. Gather as much as you can with your two hands, pick a wall, and throw it!


5. Smooth out with your palm so, once dried, it can be as wall-like as possible.


6. Take a short break for chai.

7. Repeat until done, exhausted, or both.

It was so great, I can’t even tell you my favorite part, but here are a few highlights:
<> It was awesome to smile and talk with some of the mamas and batiams that graciously and patiently allowed us to participate.
<> It was the first time I got to spend time with girls my age (3 short-termers)
<> Wiggling my toes in the mud and thinking “this is ministry?!” was memorable.
I guess God’s work comes in all different forms.

A major highlight was the children. I don’t know what it is, but I LOVE Kenyan children. On this particular day many of the village kids were not at school, and once one noticed the mzungus covered in mud, all of them came running over to the house. There were a few when we got there, but by lunchtime there were at least 30 children sitting in the field, hiding behind trees, and darting around corners to get a good look at us.

They squealed and laughed as we chased them with muddy hands, tried to speak Swahili with them, and made funny faces. My favorite part was singing with them. We taught them “My God is So Big” and “Father Abraham” while they shared a song called “God is Good to Me” in English, Swahili, and Kipsigis (impressive).  Upon saying God is good they would respond all the time. Then when we said all the time their response was: God is good and that is His nature and work.
So simple, yet so profound.

We ended our time with sharing what God has done among the bible study in that area, singing, and another drinking another round of Chai.

It was a blast, to say the least. The house belongs to Agnes and her children (above), and I pray that in it she would build up her children to fear the Lord and also that any visitors that enter the house may sense the Lord’s spirit in her.  I pray that just as the mud holds the house together, Christ would hold the family together tightly in his hands.

Colossians 1:17 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all thing, and in him all things hold together.”

Psalm 127:1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

      Most of the bible study leaders for this village area came to celebrate and pray with us.

Rice and beans, rice and beans, rice and beans!
[still reppin’ my Swedish pride as you can see]If you look closely you can see mud flying through the air at the bottom of the picture.See what I mean? The Kids seriously came out of the woodworks.
*Please pray with me for this community, because there is Satanic work known to happen among the schools. It was heart-warming to shine Christ’s light and sing about his goodness with the children. We must pray that the light of Truth would shine in that neighborhood. 



I didn’t put all the picture on here, so if you want to see more check out my http://www.facebook.com/abby.carlson3

Dutch Blitz and Sugar Cane

Welcome to Tenwek, Kenya.
The colors are Vibrant.

The clouds are Grand.

The hills are everywhere.

The people are beautiful.

This past week, this family welcomed me into their farm home. They didn’t mind me taking pictures, even before explaining that it would greatly help me with the murals I’d be painting at the hospital. It was fun being able to go beyond the outskirts of the hospital to the village.

This morning, I went back to the same village for church. Although all the Kenyan children stared and stared, only two were bold enough to come up to me–one girl and one boy. During service, they would not stop playing with my big white hands, grabbing my long blonde hair, or staring at my light eyes. I didn’t mind.

Since I’ve been preparing to paint for the Pediatrics building, the verses about children rushed into mind. J
”Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” 
(Matthew 16)

In my relationship with Christ, I want to be like the children I met at church today; unafraid to squeeze next to, lean on, stare at, and grab his hand, his hair, his arm. Unafraid to be close to the God of the universe. Unhindered upon approaching Christ.

———————————————————————————————————-
Highlights of the week:
1. I met Betty—the girl I will be discipling–for the first time Tuesday. What a gem. After briefly talking about ourselves and our families, we dove into Scriptures dealing with what it means to be a disciple. Upon hearing this verse, her face lit up: “I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends…” (John 15:15)
2. Today, I coached a team of 9 bright Kenyan girls for Children’s Bible Quizzing for the first of many weeks to come. I’m designing the T-shirt and banner for this year’s program (this month–until I leave) and am already loving being able to get to know the kids. Also included are monthly competitions and electronic buzzers, which is pretty sweet.
3. This week, I finalized preliminary sketches for four murals. (Four out of how many, I’m not sure). This just means that after many days of sketching without much glad tidings, I am finally inspired and satisfied enough with four of my drawings that are that much closer to becoming murals in the coming weeks. Thank you Lord, for not only being the best Creator, but giving us the ability to express ourselves creatively as well.

I will end with a prayer request:
Health-wise, I am not doing the best. It’s not as bad as it was this summer, but this week has been rippled with joint pain in the evenings and some mornings. Please, pray that I would acclimate to the food and elevation soon, and that God would give me the energy to serve to the best of my ability every day.

Love you all.

Kenya Beginnings

Family,
Habari from Kenya!

I arrived safe and sound last Wednesday and have waited to post on purpose because, well, I wanted to tell you more than “I arrived safe and sound.”

Before I tell you about my week, I hear that some of you are concerned about my health–I am doing well!  I was a bit sore in the beginning, but am starting to get back into a daily routine with my medicine. I’m also hoping to walk most every day, which really helps my aches.

This past week has been busy. After a day in Nairobi shopping for groceries and paint (!!) we drove the four hours back to Tenwek, where I will be living. Since I landed at night time, it was the first time I was able to marvel at Africa’s beauty.  Everything here is green with accents of brightly-colored clothing, flowers, animals, etc. (yellow, fushia, red, bright blue, royal purple). Kenya smells like a giant cup of earthy tea (not the herbal kind, the real stuff). I love it.

I then went on a Safari with my family (Aunt Linda, Uncle John, Rebecca, Julia, and Joel) for three days. We went on 4 drives and 1 walking Safari. It was so good to be able to “catch my breath” with this time, since I had been feeling very weary, rushed, busy, etc since the middle of the semester. One of the easiest ways I find worship is through nature, so God and I had some quality time.

The animals were amazing, but my favorite part of the trip was interacting with the Maasai, a tribal people that are distinguished by their red traditional clothing and darker skin. Mostly, they herd cattle because they believe god gave them all the cows in the entire world. The Safari camp we went to was run and owned by Maasai, and since it was in the middle of the Mara, we had to be escorted by Maasai warriors everywhere (for all those of you struggling with the word, it’s pronounced “Maa-sigh”). I got to practice Swahili and a bit of Maa with the help of my younger cousin Julia who knew general Swahili and picked up all the new words easily.  We also got to see a Manyata, which is a traditional Maasai village.

I am struck by how kind Kenyans are. Whenever I tell them I am new to Africa, they light up and repeat “Karibou” (welcome) at least three times. The Maasai were beyond welcoming, sharing with us their family stories and making every effort to communicate. As we traveled on the roads, children would sprint to the side of the road, wave frantically, and shout “jambo! hello! habari!” Their simple joy amazes me. I am challenged by it and desire such a contagious love and joy that points directly to Christ. I have been more aware of my body language and actions because I cannot always lean on words to make a Christ-imprinted impact on the people around me.

Can I be honest? The first couple nights, I was saddened by how long it would be until I got to be home again. I missed my family already. Since then, I think of the Maasai, the Tenwek people visiting our door each day, the children on the side of the road, and my family here, and I tear up when I think of having to leave.

That’s where I’m at. Thank you for all your prayers.

Prayers:
Right now, the number one prayer request is for Betty. I will be meeting her on the 8th at 10:00 (ish) for the first time of hopefully many! Please pray that I would have wisdom and for her continual thirst for and growth in her Lord, Jesus Christ. You can also be in prayer for my cousins who returned to school today to start their second out of three terms for the year.

This Week:
The Lord has led me to take risks. One of the biggest thus far has been going to the Hospital’s NICU with Julia and feeding a 10 day-old premature baby through a NGE tube. Typically, holding a normal baby is a really big deal for me, but it went well

I am hoping to shadow Dr. Bem, who is the pediatrician at Tenwek Hospital, and would like me to paint murals in every Peds examination room. Before I pick up a paint brush, however, I need to spend time with the people who visit every day. I’m looking forward to it! On Thursday, needy women come to the house to meet, ask for help, and pray with my aunt. I will be “learning the ropes” as far as how that goes each week and helping out however I can.

Mwaka Mpya!
[Happy New Year


“As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy. You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world.” –Jesus Calling [Sarah Young]

3…2..1…Kenya Take Off

It’s happening!!

Actually, it’s in the process of happening right now.

I’m in Amsterdam.  Yes, I’m still in the airport..but it’s the first place outside of the US I’ve ever been to, so it counts. I love seeing people around me that don’t look like me. They are beautiful. I don’t mean different skin color, no most people here are still white. I mean the whole “European look”–more prominent facial features, dramatic eyes, cool accents, the whole bit.

It’s funny how I have to search for the English signs..upon attempting to read the Dutch signs, since they use some of the same Roman letters, I thought I was just waayyy too tired and couldn’t read. Nope. It just turns out to be that the world does not revolve around America or even the English language.

So far?

Met some cool people.
Drank some hard-core coffee (the real stuff).
Got some free WiFi, compliments of Amsterdam not O’Hare.
Haven’t slept at all.

Lovin it. This may seem like a flippant post, but just know that I am safe thus far, enjoying my time, being blessed by the experience…and I haven’t even caught a glimpse of Nairobi yet.

Thanks for all your prayers, love, encouragement, and support.

https://i2.wp.com/www.africa-business.com/pics2/african_road.jpg

inJUSTice

In Kenya, I will see things that I cannot un-see.

Things that are unfathomable in the US.
Things that reveal just how desperate and depraved humanity truly is.
Things that ache the heart of God.

Injustice.

Early on in the Kenya-prep stages, I was not sure how to prepare my heart for this wild season the Lord was opening up for me. I didn’t know what to expect.  Then the Lord laid a word on my heart–a word that I knew I had to come to terms with before crossing the border: justice. God’s cry for justice (especially in the Old Testament) is something I had avoided putting much energy in studying or researching, simply because it was daunting. The #1 complaint among nonbelievers (and believers in times of doubt) is something along the lines of “If God is good, then why do horrific things happen?”  Now, I’m not trying to talk about the tragic CT shooting that happened last week, it just happens to be a solid and recent example. Well, I decided to study and dig deep into God’s cry for justice–which is a major theme in the entire Bible.  Besides my daily devotions, it really helped me to draw out what I was learning.

Most of the art I have done this semester is photography and sketches about justice. Meaning, I sketch out what I visualize as the victims of oppression and injustices.  In photography, I have tried to capture things that allude to God’s cry for justice in our world. Here is what I’ve come up with thus far.   I hope these speak to you. Let me know what you think.

The bottom line is, that we have hope for a Saviour. The sins of this world give us greater reason to live for the world to come.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair…
…“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

–Isaiah 61