Mission Outreach Blog

Kenya Day 2 - Being Church

On our second day in Kenya, the team looked forward to venturing out and finally interacting with the people of Nakuru.

 Here are the cottages where we are staying at in Nakuru. 

Here are the cottages where we are staying at in Nakuru. 

In the morning, we worshipped at Nakuru Upendo Parish. “Upendo” means love. It’s name clearly states the church’s goal to share the love of Christ. The church was established ten years ago after violent skirmishes between tribes in the parish, which is one of the poorer areas in Nakuru. Now, the church is a reminder of how different people can be united in Christ and live together in peace.

And oh how they are united in Christ! For over three hours we worshipped through dancing and singing, praying and raising hands, preaching and more praying. One of the most powerful moments came as we celebrated holy communion with the community and then brought our offerings forward to support Upendo’s ministry.

 Rev. Jeff preaching with his translator, the evangelist Anthony. 

Rev. Jeff preaching with his translator, the evangelist Anthony. 

The Upendo family showed us great hospitality by inviting Bill to offer a prayer of blessing over the children, Annie helped lead the singing, and Rev. Jeff preached the sermon. The entire team enjoyed getting to offer hugs to the kids and their parents and extend the love of Christ (we will be returning tomorrow to see the school that RPC helps support).

 Bill praying (in English).

Bill praying (in English).

After a jam-packed morning at church, we headed to lunch with some brief shopping before touring a piece of land that has been given to R.O.C.K. Bridge ministries that they hope to develop into a self-sustaining ministry in the coming years.

 Zablon showing R.O.C.K. Bridge’s new property that overlooks Lake Nakuru.  

Zablon showing R.O.C.K. Bridge’s new property that overlooks Lake Nakuru.  

Kenya Day 1 - Getting There

After almost 24 hours of travel time, which included a connection in Doha, Qatar, the RPC mission team finally arrived in Nairobi, Kenya.

 The team (from left to right: Bill, Ellen, Betty, Diane, Annie, Patty, and Colette. Not pictured because he’s taking it: Jeff) in the Doha airport. 

The team (from left to right: Bill, Ellen, Betty, Diane, Annie, Patty, and Colette. Not pictured because he’s taking it: Jeff) in the Doha airport. 

In our team trainings, we have tried to prepare ourselves to be open to God’s presence in ways that we may never have done before. Now the rubber meets the road. We know we are about to step into a very different country and culture than most of us are used to. Since none of us can in read Arabic, the words on the flight map (pictured below) were am early reminder that God has created a world that we are not fully familiar with.

That means God’s surprises wait for us around every corner if we will have the eyes to see them. Our team hopes to scratch the surface of God’s wonderful, surprising creation this week. We thank you for your prayers and support!

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Today has been a day of travel and transition, meeting new people and preparing to meet many more. We look in great anticipation to what God has in store for us this week. 

 Ellen and Annie standing in front of their transportation. 

Ellen and Annie standing in front of their transportation. 

Guatemala day 7

by Robby Cella, Director of Youth Programs

With the week of work behind us, the group explored the city of Antigua. The city is full of history. Spanish conquistadors, Catholic cathedrals, Mayan ruins, three volcanoes, and the San Andreas fault - all coverage in this town. It's a marvelous place to examine the history and influences in Guatemala. The group enjoyed great meals, a comfy hotel built from an ancient Spanish Villa, and more colorful markets. In a action packed week full of emotional highs and lows, it was a much needed reprieve, one which added significant depth to our time here.

Tonight, our final night together, ended with a special time of reflection and affirmation of one another. It was the perfect bow to tie the bonds of this group together one last time.

We're thankful to our church, to our families, and to all those who made this trip possible. Most importantly, we're thankful for the one who formed us, called together and sent us out for the good of Guatemala and for his Glory.

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Guatemala day 6

 The Christian School in Quiche. Recently cerebrated 54 years. 

The Christian School in Quiche. Recently cerebrated 54 years. 

 RPC students helping Quiche students with their English. These girls are studying to become bilingual administrators - an educational path with hopes of better job opportunities.

RPC students helping Quiche students with their English. These girls are studying to become bilingual administrators - an educational path with hopes of better job opportunities.

  Rev. Mary Cox  celebrating and thanking the hotel staff for their exceptional hospitality.

Rev. Mary Cox celebrating and thanking the hotel staff for their exceptional hospitality.

 Rev. Mary Cox presenting Pam Nunez with a prayer quilt from RPC's  Prayers & Squares  ministry.

Rev. Mary Cox presenting Pam Nunez with a prayer quilt from RPC's Prayers & Squares ministry.

Guatemala day 5

by Robby Cella, Director of Youth Programs

Familiarity and group cohesion hit their sweet spot as the team crossed the midway point for their time in Guatemala. Deeper friendships and deeper connections are being made as students and adults all work together, whether it be hammering nails and laying concrete, or running lessons, playing games, and corralling Guatemalan kiddos.

With it comes increased fatigue as the rigors of the work days compound on one another.  Exhaustion that affects stomachs and joints alike sidelines the occasional team member; afternoon naps, after a long days work, become more commonplace. This is all completely normal, of course. Most mission trips have similar rhythms.

Work continued today in Chichi with more work sites and more VBS. This time VBS took place in Chichi rather than at Chulamal, which is a couple miles outside the city. The school is larger and more resourced, but with it comes larger groups of kids who can be more difficult to manage at times.

Construction consisted of the framing of a new house for a family. Students and adults measured the lines, dug the holes, cut the beams, hammered the nails, and put up the walls, all in the course of a day to provide this family a place to lay their heads in the evening.

This trip is teaching all of us so much and we're grateful for all that the Lord has put before us, to teach us and lead us and show us his heart for these people. We pray we can be a support to them and join them in the mission of God already underway here in Guatemala.

 A work crew poses with the family after praying over the newly layed concrete floor.

A work crew poses with the family after praying over the newly layed concrete floor.

 Corn hangs to dry at the Chulumal school.

Corn hangs to dry at the Chulumal school.

Day four - Getting into the rhythm

 This blurry photo is of Robby with his new hat!

This blurry photo is of Robby with his new hat!

Tuesday, day four in Guatemala, was another success. Everyone is settling into the rhythm and adjusting well. The group continues to show strength and determination, despite sore muscles and lack of sleep caused by barking dogs. Today the group was split up again, with some going to the Chulumal school and others going to a construction site. VBS went smoothly and the kids had a great time! The construction site was also a big success as the group learned to spread concrete, put up walls, and install roofs. All in all, the day was one full of hard but fulfilling work, and it ended as all days should, with a tasty meal and great company. 

Sergio and his family, including his father Serapio, who is the pastor of the church in Chulumal, were our guests. Sergio is one of our most important contacts in Chichi and the surrounding areas, and he makes our missions possible with his hard work and tireless dedication to his community. He told us a lot about the importance of education in the community and the progressive changes he has seen in the area. He discussed the change in the general community as older, more traditional ideas about gender, education, and work fade away and people begin to embrace a more open and positive opinion of women and education for all. At the end, he generously gave out gifts to everyone in the group, including wonderful pouches, hats, and shawls. 

As the group prepares for another day full of work and fun, we should all take a minute to realize how blessed we are to live the lives we do, and also take some time to think about what we can learn from the dedication and faith of the Guatemalan people. Goodnight! 

 This picture is from Sunday when the group took a tour of the local cemetery.  

This picture is from Sunday when the group took a tour of the local cemetery.  

Guatemala day three.

by Robby Cella, Director of Youth Programs

Today the team hit the work sites in earnest. A team headed outside of Chichi to help build the walls, floors, and roof on a family’s home - a huge project that the team tackled wonderfully. Another team put on VBS for the kids in and around the Chulumal school. With 85 kids, three stations, and 18 from the team, it was a great success. After VBS, that same team went to work laying a floor in the school itself, an important step in an ongoing project to improve its facilities.

The work done is a huge help to the families and a wonderful time of learning and fun for the kids. Yet, the challenges which these wonderful families and children face are so massive and far reaching that it's hard to even feel like you're scratching the surface of the problems. We welcomed the head of Chichi’s hospital - the only hospital for miles - for dinner, and he informed the group that most families in the region survive on less than $10 a week - that supports families of 5, or 8, or more.

In the face of seemingly overwhelming poverty, which of course brings a host of other problems, it can feel like only a drop in a bucket towards real relief. Yet, we're called forward by the God who knows these families and loves them more than we could; the same God that has been working, that is working, and will continue to work in the hearts and lives of these people with a relentless love. The same love that he pursues each of us with every day.

Day two. Easter in Chichi.

by Robby Cella, Director of Youth Programs

It's not often that you find yourself in the mountains of Guatemala for Easter. It can take a minute getting used to but once you do you might find yourself experiencing some things that are rare and special indeed. For instance, you might experience worshipping in a remote place with a church family you didn't realize you belonged to, yet miraculously, you do by the grace of God. Or you might find yourself wandering the crowded streets of this remote mountain town, with its markets and vendors, taking in the sights of the Easter parades. Or you might find the region’s unique piety on full display in the centuries old Catholic Church at the heart of the town - a piety probably only rarely found when Mayan and Catholic religiosities mix and simmer for a few hundred years together. We experienced all of this and more here in Guatemala on Easter.

The team woke early to the sounds of the mountain town rising expectantly to commemorate the great day of resurrection. Sounds of fireworks pierced the air before sunrise and parades with their accompanying music commenced at first light. The team gathered and rode to our host church where we celebrated Easter with a sunrise service filled with songs and hymns sung triumphantly in local Spanish dialect. Both congregations, Roswell and Chulumal, shook hands, hugged and rejoiced that we could be together and for a special moment be one congregation in Christ.

The rest of the day was spent experiencing the sights, sounds, and goods of the Chichi market. We observed the Easter festivities in two old mission churches. In each, unique Mayan customs collide with old Catholic traditions in chaotic and somewhat confusing ways.

After everyone had explored the market and acquired their share of its treasures, a group walked to look at the town's vibrantly colored cemetery - another place where local customs collide with Christian ones.

The day concluded with the team celebrating the Lord's Supper, an act which unites all Christians everywhere, from every country and nation, from every time and place, through all of history. It was an especially appropriate corporate act in light of the Easter we all had just experienced. Thanks be to God.

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2018 Guatemala Mission Experience - Saturday, March 31

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by Robby Cella, Director of Youth Programs

The Guatemala team has made it safely to their destination in Chichi after a long day of travel!

The team is in great spirits after a smooth flight and an equally smooth drive up the mountains. The weather and traffic each cooperated and everyone is settling into their home away from home here in the beautiful Casa del Rey hotel.

The team is an all-star group, full of first timers and long time veterans of the experience. We're especially thankful to our team leaders, Mary, Lisa, and Bruce, who've made this such smooth sailing throughout.

There is a great deal in store for us yet ahead, and we are giddy with anticipation fo what God has for us this week.  Stay tuned to this blog for updates!

 At the Atlanta airport

At the Atlanta airport

 At the McDonald's in ChiChi

At the McDonald's in ChiChi

 Casa del Rey hotel in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Casa del Rey hotel in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Day 4 - Kantemo, Yucatán, Mexico

by Kemo Jones, Director of Youth Outreach

One of the most important things I've learned about mission outreach is that while having food, shelter, and providing medicine is essential for healthy communities, as God once told the great David Pynne, "It's about relationships..." 

When I first came to Mexico, I had no idea what to expect. I knew we would be helping women and children, but I didn't know if what I had to offer could really benefit people here long term. After all, I don't have many hard skills or trades to offer. However, I have found this trip to be less about "what can USA do for you" but how can we help each other. This is relational ministry (and I love to talk!). You don't have to be very intentional when you're giving handouts and that might not last. Buildings crumble, food gets eaten, and medicine gets used, but internationally spending time with people with hopes of making a friend changes lives forever.

79-year-old Pastor Severo has been living by this principle for 54 years (two life times for me). He says even though his own children want him to retire, when he sees the first generation of children he ministered to now as church leaders, it only gives him more passion to continue God's work.

I pray that we are able to see that relationships are what's most important. May we continue to do good works in Jesus name for the glory of God. 

Shots from today...

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​Day 3 - VBS in Kancab, Yucatán, Mexico

by Kemo Jones, Director of Youth Outreach

I can't end today without thanking all of you who donated shirts for our Vacation Bible School and tied a knot for the prayer squares. Because of your help we were able to see God move in big ways.

We used the shirts to make cool bags, but there was something particularly special about the prayer quilt squares. Dr. Clara Herrera beautifully explained the significance of the prayer squares and told this community that their brothers and sisters in Roswell, GA are praying for them. As David and I prayed for the children in English and they prayed for us in Spanish, we all were moved to tears by the Holy Spirit. Praise God for the amazing things he's doing.

Later that day, over 25 children came to the church to do crafts and sing about God's goodness. Angelica, one of the pastors, led the kids in a Bible study, and when we finished VBS, many of the kids went home but a few stayed with us to play soccer.

It was a lot of fun to see God use us for his glory.

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Day 2- San Simon, Yucatán, Mexico

by Kemo Jones, Director of Youth Outreach

Today was so amazing. The breakfast, Sunday morning service, the lunch, the siesta, then the church dedication, and finally la Pizza Mexicana. Today was filled with wonder!

The best part of the day though was going to the church dedication service where only through the Holy Spirit could I understand what was going on. Before we went into the church, there was a dedication and a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Then during the service, the pastor taught about the Tower of Babylon and how we work better together (at least that's what I think he said, lol). And there was an amazing Communion service led by our very own Rev. Mary Cox and Pastor Severo Ek in English, Spanish, and Mayan. (Can you believe Mary led the service in English and Spanish!!)

We saw God work in so many ways. I'm just so excited that God has allowed us to be a part of the goods works he's doing in these small towns. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

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 La Copa de la Salvación

La Copa de la Salvación

Day 1 - Yucatán, Mexico

by Kemo Jones, RPC's Director of Youth Outreach

So it's 10:01 a.m. and we're sitting in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. I can't help but be a tad bit nervous as we're about to go to another country with different customs, languages, and traditions. This is such a great opportunity for us to be able to serve God by loving on our Mexican brothers and sisters IN MEXICO! Please pray that God's protection will be around our planes, hotels, food, and family as we leave home. Also, that we see God work in mighty ways this week! Hasta luego!!

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  RPC's  Mission Outreach  Team prepares to go to Yucatán, Q.R, Mexico  - Laura Nieto, Dr. Clara Herrera, Kemo Jones, Rev. Mary Cox, Dave and Marge Summers

RPC's Mission Outreach Team prepares to go to Yucatán, Q.R, Mexico - Laura Nieto, Dr. Clara Herrera, Kemo Jones, Rev. Mary Cox, Dave and Marge Summers

Day 8 - God's Wonderland

Today was a full day of Safari. We headed out at 7 AM and did not get back until around 5 PM. It is difficult to process all the amazing things in creation that we saw. None of us expected to see as many animals as we did. The highlight however was that we got to witness part of the great migration from Tanzania to Kenya of the wildebeest and zebra .

We are all so grateful for this opportunity and experience. 

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Day 7 - Bumpy Yet Exhilarating

We woke up early in the morning to take the drive from Nakuru to the Mara which is the wild game reserve in Southern Kenya. It borders Tanzania. The drive took seven hours, three hours of which were on unpaved, bumpy roads. Our drivers told us we were getting their version of an African massage as we bumped and prodded along. We were able to stop at two curio shops though with authentic Masai art and goods. The Masai are the tribe in the area where the national park game reserve is located. They are known for their tall slender build and bright colored clothing. They live as shepherds of sheep and cattle. Driving through this country is breathtaking with the level planes and the mountains surrounding. As we drove along the highway we frequently saw monkeys, zebras, and wildebeest.

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We arrived at our lodge and grabbed a quick bite and then went out on our first safari. Immediately upon entering the park we saw impala, gazelle, zebra, and wildebeest. Later we saw giraffe. It began to rain, hard, so hard we had to put down the top of our bus. We saw a huge crowd of cars gathered and wondered what was there. As we pulled up we saw two lions and a lioness. Absolutely fascinating.

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It continued to rain so we made our way back. On our way back we ran into a herd of elephants including two babies. Truly another day in paradise.

Day 6 - Bitter with a tiny sweet.

Today was our last day in Nakuru town. It was bittersweet every step of the way. We began early in the morning again with a workplace Bible study at a local grocer called Woolmart. The one at Woolmart was led by another one of R.O.C.K.Bridge Ministries pastors, Edward. He had come in by bus from Nairobi so that we could hear him preach.

Next we went to a car dealership - Ken-Jap Motors. Here Pastor Susan, also with R.O.C.K.Bridge Ministries led the Bible study that customers who were waiting to buy cars attended as well. Both pastors are dynamic and engaging.

 Pastor Edward at Woolmart workplace Bible study.  

Pastor Edward at Woolmart workplace Bible study.  

 Pastor Susan and Ellen outside Ken-Jap Motors.  

Pastor Susan and Ellen outside Ken-Jap Motors.  

After that we headed to the state run orphanage called Arap-Moi Children's Home. We met with the director of the school who has been there 28 years. This was an overwhelming experience as she shared stories of how they get the children especially the babies. They have 143 students, many of whom have special needs, HIV or AIDS, or are victims of sexual abuse. Unfortunately we were not able to visit with any of the children as the primary students were in school and the babies have an outbreak of chickenpox. We were able to peek at a few of them through the windows though. Some of RPC's Christmas Endowment Fund goes to this place.

Next we went to the Hyrax primary school, which is a government run school for grades one through five. The school has 1000 children. They had them come out for their assembly and all thousand children sat outside in complete silence like we had never seen. They welcomed us, sang to us, and we were able to pray with them. R.O.C.K.Bridge Ministries got involved with the school a few years ago when one of the teachers called Zablon and asked if he could help pay for some new uniforms for some of the orphans whose clothes were literally falling apart. The principal talked about how giving them clothes and shoes had brought about such improvement in their spiritual health but also in their test scores.

 Arap-Moi Children's Home.

Arap-Moi Children's Home.

 A wall on the outside of the primary school. The children see this as soon as they leave the washroom.  

A wall on the outside of the primary school. The children see this as soon as they leave the washroom.  

 This is the sign immediately when you walk into the orphanage.  

This is the sign immediately when you walk into the orphanage.  

We came back after lunch and rested for just a brief moment. We then went up to the Tumaini children's home as well as the Nakuru 316 orphanage to say our goodbyes. We all left in tears. None of us wanted to leave.

 Anna Beth and Ashley surrounded! 

Anna Beth and Ashley surrounded! 

 Jack entertaining a group of boys.  

Jack entertaining a group of boys.  

All of us are so incredibly grateful to have experienced this amazing place. The faith, the heart, the lives lived here will forever inspire us. We hope that some of you will get to experience it in the future as well. 

Day 5 - Dusk to Dawn in Awe

Our day began earlier than normal so that we could go to one of R.O.C.K.Bridge Ministries workplace Bible studies. The Bible study began at 7:30 AM at a business called Victory Furniture. It has three locations in Nakuru town. People from all three locations come for the Bible study. There were over 50 in attendance not including our team. Most of these in attendance were young adult professionals. One of Rock Bridge's staff people, Benson, is the pastor for this workplace Bible study. We began with a few songs and then he led into a study on the fruit of the Spirit. He was energetic, humorous, and completely engaging with everybody present. It was a job well done!

 The plaque at the nursing school in honor of Lane. 

The plaque at the nursing school in honor of Lane. 

 Inside the freshman class at the Nursing College. 

Inside the freshman class at the Nursing College. 

After catching a quick breakfast, we went to the Nakuru West Parish Church. There we met with the key church leaders as well as the leaders of the nursing college, the school, and the medical clinic. One of the most amazing things was how much they wanted to know our story and thank Roswell Presbyterian for all that it has done to help bring about this amazingly sustainable ministry. We tried our best to encourage and affirm the amazing work that God has done for them. It is truly a unique model for ministry in the majority world in that it is sustainable.

 Ellen working with a patient.  

Ellen working with a patient.  

One of our team members, Ellen Grade,  a licensed speech pathologist, was able to spend the day in the clinic onsite consulting with patients with cerebral palsy, meningitis, encephalitis, and more. She was able to treat 25 patients. She did a remarkable job teaching parents as well as the nurses at the clinic simple ways to communicate with their children. How amazing!

Some of the ladies at the church prepared a most fabulous traditional Kenyan lunch. We sat around with the church leaders as well as lay leaders and workers and shared fellowship together. After that we walked over to the school onsite that serves H3 through 14 years old. Two of the classes had prepared special presentations for us. It was unbelievable what they had prepared. I hope to post the video when I return.

Lastly we went by another workplace Bible study at a very nice hotel in Nakuru. This was the day of the Bible study launching. We were fortunate to have Zablon give a brief charge as well as us offer prayers for this amazing ministry that just continues to blossom here. Currently Rock Bridge Ministries has 33 workplaces where they are doing Bible studies. God is so good!

Day 4 - God in the heart of the slum.

Day four, after a lovely breakfast, with Kenyan doughnuts, we drove to the largest slum in Nakuru called Upendo. Upendo means love in Swahili. There we visited another PCEA church called the Upendo parish. Here they have a preschool, kindergarten, and class 1 or first grade. There are 120 students in the school, 92 of them are sponsored. Sponsorship per year, including a snack and lunch, is $120.

 Humphrey the manager of this amazing place in the largest slum in Nakuru. 

Humphrey the manager of this amazing place in the largest slum in Nakuru. 

 The worship space.  

The worship space.  

They also have a medical clinic. It was absolutely fascinating to hear about the tremendous growth in such a short period of time of this church right in the heart of the slums. The manager there, Humphrey, is also the janitor, the facilities operator, the overseer of the staff and the students.

 The outside of the clinic.  

The outside of the clinic.  

The main things the clinic treats are malaria and typhoid, both of which come from the contaminated water in the area. Folks from the slum can also come there to receive free HIV testing and medicine as provided by the USAID and Kenyan government. All the other treatments, including typhoid and malaria vaccinations, are available for a very small cost. Still this cost prevents many from coming and the clinic only sees about 45 patients per day.

Next we set off to visit Zablon's mother, Eunice. She had 13 of us over for tea and bread in her lovely countryside home. We were able to meet two of Zablon's brothers as well as one of his nephews. Zablon's mother was quiet, yet very funny and very grateful for our surprise 

 Zablon's precious and faithful mother Eunice.  

Zablon's precious and faithful mother Eunice.  

 Zablon sharing his vision for this land.  

Zablon sharing his vision for this land.  

Next we headed back into the main part of town to have lunch and to buy a few supplies for the Nakuru 316 children that we would go play with again in the afternoon.

After the quick shopping trip Zablon drove us to the 7 1/2 acres that R.O.C.K.Bridge Ministries has received as a donation from one of his board members. It is in a fabulous location that overlooks Lake Nakuru.

 Courtney showing the guys the harmonica.  

Courtney showing the guys the harmonica.  

In the evening we headed back to Nakuru 316 to hang out with the children again. The highlight of the afternoon was when the high school students came back to the retreat center with us so that Courtney could give them some harmonicas. Here is Courtney showing them how to play the harmonicas. Absolutely priceless. This was the most spectacular day yet. God is soooooo at work here. 

Day 3 - Worship

We awoke early to be at the Nakuru West Church for the 8:30 service.

The service was energetic, Holy Spirit filled, and awesome. Part of this church's strategic plan is to focus on children's ministry, so they had several different moments where children were able to lead worship. It was wonderful. At one point the pastor called all the children up and asked if any of them have a memory verse? Two girls sang separate songs and then two boys shared different memory verses. Before each child shared, they would look out at the congregation and say "praise God". The congregation would respond with "amen". Then they would say "praise God again." The congregation would say "amen" again. Then they would introduce themselves. They were such amazing little leaders.

After church we hung out with the congregation outside. After church we went to lunch in town with two of the church elders.

 The sanctuary at Nakuru West Parish

The sanctuary at Nakuru West Parish

 The team before worship. 

The team before worship. 

In the afternoon we visited the Nakuru 316 home on the grounds of the TCC. This is a home for children who have been rescued off the street as orphans. There were 20 orphans aged 3-12. We played with bubbles and chalk. Then we had a dance party and taught them some of our moves as they taught us their own. An unbelievable experience for all of us

 Anna Beth and Jack surrounded with love.  

Anna Beth and Jack surrounded with love.  

 Precious girls! Jack is in the background playing "hand-slap"! while Donna shows selfies to one of the girls. 

Precious girls! Jack is in the background playing "hand-slap"! while Donna shows selfies to one of the girls. 

 Patty in her element, loving on kids.  

Patty in her element, loving on kids.  

 Fun! Fun! Joy! Joy! 

Fun! Fun! Joy! Joy!