Yesterday was a day of rest; and a day of surprises.
Not because it was planned that way but because as Leonardo Decaprio says in the movie Blood Diamond: "This Is Africa." In the morning Rick and Desiree spent 4 hours at 3 different banks trying to take money out of their credit card - this allowed the rest of us to sleep in until 10:00am! Desiree said that it was not until George (the manager of Shalom House - much like Paul in Hotel Rwanda) saw a friend at the third bank who was able to write a note saying he knew Desiree and Rick for 10 years that any bank would trust giving them such a large sum of money. But again, This Is Africa, and things work a little differently around here.
The next complication came after lunch (as well as spending some time at the internet cafe - about $1 an hour) when our desired plans fell through. We wanted to spend a day and a half at a place called Happy Life, an orphanage that another student from North Central worked at for a few months. The problem was that even though we finally heard back from the orphanage, we had no directions to the place (there are no addresses around here, only street names). So we went with plan B which took us on a Safari Walk at a National Park in Nairobi which was the African version of a zoo. On the walk we were able to see both normal and albino zebras, wildabeasts, buffaloes, ostriches, monkeys, impallas, wart hogs (yes Katie, pumas), cheetas, a rhino (weighing 2 tons - as much as a car!), orks (one with only one horn - at first I thought it was a real unicorn), crocodiles, hippos, and a beautiful river valley running up into the National Park. The one disappointment was that the Lion was hiding in the woods, but on a positive note we had a guide taking us around (unlike an American zoo) and tell us about all the animals. We finished our time there with a soda at the restaurant.
Though the day did not remedy any deep discussions during our devotional, we still managed to talk for a few hours into the night. While the night before warranted a discussion of Matthew 6 and what we can do as individuals to help those in need, last nights conversation revolved around the church and its role in helping those in need as told by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8. It was a very encouraging conversation, realizing that both individual and community transformation can occur when Christ's body (the church) is both working together in unity and persistently fighting the inequality of resources amongst local churches in the greater body. A statistic was quoted that if every Christian in America alone gave 10% of their salary (tithe) an extra 120 billion dollars could be raised and it would only take 80 billion to rid of poverty. That is also assuming that churches gave at least 66% of that extra tithe money to the poor (most churches don't even give 10% outside their church to the poor). While the numbers sound great, the only way any of this is possible is for the American church to first see their place in the global church and for small steps to be taken both individually and as the church to tithe to the church/poor. Amidst all this great conversation I really wanted to spend some quality time at the end in prayer, but the prayer was keep short and my heart unsettled. It may have been better to keep it light because today was a very full and intense day spiritually.
After devotions two surprises awaited us in our Block B, 3rd Floor, Room Two living quarters. The key was locked in the room for the second time this week (though last time we found the maintenance who had a spare key, this time was at 11:30pm so we had to pick the lock with one of Dan's credit cards. The second surprise (not a pleasant one at that) was that somehow our code on the safe in our room (having all our passports and money) got changed accidentally so we couldn't get into the safe. Today we discovered that it isn't a huge problem (*we have got in since writing this) to get it open but our prayer is that it was our mistake when reentering the code to close it rather than someone trying to break in.
Finally, I'd like to describe two of the members from our group. The first is Lori, a 40 year old kindergarten teacher that lives in Aurora and teachers in the Western Suburbs. She has an amazing spirit and really has a servant's heart. Yesterday she even took the time to do some of our laundry. She has been on other missions trips before to Haiti and goes to CCC for church with Rick and Desiree. We learned from the conversation last night that she just started going to church again five years ago (this coming after 17 years of not going since growing up in a catholic church) and really cherishes her renewed relationship with the Lord. Though still being hesitant to pray in public, she always has something good to say and is an amazing Christ-like figure with all the children we have come in contact with on the trip.
The second group member I'll briefly talk about is Josh. Josh is 27 years old and is Dan and Rick Guzman's step-brother (son of their step-mom's previous marriage). He lives in Chicago and works in the theatrical arena, performing in plays and "anything he can find." He really has a pretty quiet and non-expressive personality, but often breaks out a joke or hilarious comment that keeps us on our toes. He's also got a low voice and the most chest hair I have ever seen. Because he lives in the theater world and the people he associates with he does not consider himself a religious person and I from what I know Christian. But he is so open to it - and displays God's love with every African we meet - especially the children who tend to cling to him because he is so tall and white. I am stoked that he was able to join us on our trip and despite only being with us for two of the three weeks, I hope I can get to know him more and pray this trip may change his life.
Until later, enjoy what you have in America, and keep praying for me and the group when you get a chance. Thanks and God Bless.