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Beginning the Journey

This is the post excerpt.

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Hi! My name’s Grace, I’m twenty-three years old and I’m moving to KENYA! Yes, as in Kenya, Africa. I graduated from college one year ago, and what a year it has been! When I graduated, I had a plan. I was in a long-distance relationship with someone I believed would one day be my husband. We had a plan. I would finish student teaching in the fall, and then I would move to North Dakota. The relationship ended in October of 2016. I had no idea what I was going to do next. As it says in Proverbs 16:9, I decided on a plan, but God determined my steps. I had no choice, but to allow Him to guide me. Through this, God was graciously loving me. I felt angry. I felt cheated. I felt lost. I felt discouraged. I felt like God had led me down a dead-end road. But God, in all of His goodness, made a path through the wilderness. God did not reveal his plans for me right away. He simply guided me one day at a time. Each day he softened my heart with his gracious love and provision. When God knew my heart was ready, He directed my attention to a need in Kenya. After a great deal of prayer and thought, I choose to take this leap of faith, and move to Kenya. Each step that I’ve made since October has led me to Kenya.

I will be teaching the children of medical missionaries, and volunteering in a Kenyan church. The families that I will be serving have sacrificed much to answer God’s call. Each parent wants their child to have a good education, and these families struggle to serve Christ in medicine while providing their children with a solid education. God has gifted me with the skills needed to teach, and He has given me a passion for educating children. This is a burden that I can help lighten from these families.

I am going to be using this blog to document my journey to and my life in Kenya. I’ll be updating this blog with what’s going on in my heart as I move forward, how you can support, pray, or donate to the mission, and photos and stories of how God is working in and through me while I’m there. I’ve linked a donation site on the sidebar of this blog. If you’d like to make a non-online donation, please comment with your email, and I’ll send you more information. If you’d like to learn more about the place I’ll be going, you can visit World Gospel Missions website. Their website has information about the Tenwek Hospital Ministry. I am excited to embrace this journey with you.

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When God’s Abundance is Felt

When I sat down to write an update on what life has been like over the last two months, I had nothing to say. Genuinely life has been steady and normal. I haven’t felt the wild fluctuations in emotions I felt last year. I look around and I see a place that feels like home. The people I see daily have become friends and family. This place called Tenwek is a collage of different nationalities, personalities and languages. As I have lived within this beautiful, crazy collage, I have begun to feel the abundance of the life God desires for his people.

In Richard Fosters book “Celebration of Discipline”. Foster says that this abundant life consists of three things.

“In the Bible, we see that God desires to give each of us a full life and that abundance consists in the proper correlation of at least three things; provision,  place, and personality. Human life is such that goodness consists in a combination of these three.” (Introduction to Celebration of Discipline)
I have seen and felt God’s provision over the last year. I have seen it in the way he has provided for the hospital after the fire. I have seen it through generous donors who desired to help me return to Kenya. I have seen God use me to be his provision for others. My house-helper Olivia and my gardener Geoffrey have both asked me for loans this year. Olivia desired to use the money to build a storeroom in order to keep the produce from her garden safe. Geoffrey desired to buy a cow with the money. His ultimate desire is to sell the cow in one year and use the money from the cow to buy land. They are both paying back the money slowly over time, and they have both shown me the results of the money given to them. Each of them has known what it is to be in need on a daily basis, but they each show generosity when ever given the opportunity. It is my hope and my prayer that God will multiply the little they have, so that they can be God’s provision to someone else.

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This place has grown deep into my heart. I often feel two opposing emotions living here. I have felt a sense of belonging. That I fit here in a way I haven’t felt before. However, I also feel that I am a foreigner living in a place that is not my home. I believe that this is how God intended it. This place is not my home, and no place on earth will ever be home. This is both scary and comforting. God places in us a desire for home because we are supposed to long for home with him. Often people look for this home in places and in people. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. I have been learning, throughout my time in Kenya, that while my home is found only in Christ, the place he puts me is important. It’s important to seek a place in the community. It’s important to seek a place in the body of Christ. This is where I often fall short. I am a true blue introvert, which means I don’t seek to do more than what is asked of me. The place I usually create for myself is a small corner of the room doing my job diligently without fan fair. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does remove me from the possibilities of relationships within this community. I realize this is a error of my humanity, and it is my desire that as I enter a new year I can begin making new habits in this area.

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Richard Foster says that habits are what we use to express the basic level of our personality. Many of the habits that a person acquires throughout life are what defines them as people. These habits shape who they are and who they become. I have seen this theory in action in the lives of the people around me, both on the mission field and at home. I have seen how easy it is to build bad habits, and I have felt how hard it is to build good habits. I know I am not a naturally disciplined person. I prefer to indulge in the easy, convenient and comfortable. When I do this I withhold from myself an deeper understanding of Christ, and his sacrifice for me. I am just now beginning to understand how the small seemingly insignificant decisions I make throughout my day can make a large impact on my life.

Missionaries are often looked at as having supernatural spirituality beyond the normal person. This is far from the truth. Missionaries are normal people that God has called to do extraordinary things. There is one commonality among the missionaries that I have had the privilege of knowing. They seek to make Christ the center of all they do. They seek habits that keep Christ at the for front of their minds. This isn’t a skill they naturally have. It comes from years of choosing habits that pushes who they are aside and brings Christ into focus.

As I reflect on 2018, I realize that I am only just beginning this journey. Being a follower of Christ takes time, patience, diligence and grace. God desires abundance and goodness for us, but we must choose to live in this abundance. We must choose to live in the understanding of his provision. We must choose to acknowledge the place he has for us with the community of believers. We must choose to fashion our daily selves around glorifying him, and drawing near to him. I am only beginning to understand what it means to make these choices. It is my goal that I will be diligent in making these choices throughout 2019.

 

 

My World Is Filled With Color

My world is filled with color, both literally and figuratively.

 

 

It is Spring here in Kenya, so everywhere I look bright and vibrant colors meet my eyes. I see every shade of green daily. This time of year is filled with purple flowering trees that blanket the ground with their beautiful blossoms. There are also varying shades of orange and red to be seen in the blooming flowers and bushes. Each morning as I walk to school. I try to take it all in. I don’t think I will every grow tired of the beauty that I see everyday.

 

My students also add color to my life. Their young energetic, and creative personalities make life fun and entertaining. Every week I walk into the classroom and see their art work displayed on the walls. My fourth and fifth graders have also been slowly adding maps of the countries we’ve been studying to our map wall. I am so proud of their hard work and creativity. I am also filled with joy knowing that they have the opportunity to express this creative side of them.

 

 

 

Each of my students’ personalities just adds to the kaleidoscope of color that is my life. Every student has good days and bad days. Some days they walk into the room, and I know immediately what the color the day has been. It’s my job to be consistent and bring them back to their usual selves. In order to do that, I need to know my students well.

 

 

MT is a treasure to have in the classroom. If I had to use colors to describe her, I would say she is bright blues, greens, and oranges. She is feisty, competitive, and creative. She has a love for any and all animals. She loves getting her hands dirty in whatever she is learning. She is personality that you love to be around.

 

 

 

Eden is a gem! She has a soft heart and her colors span the rainbow. She is a story teller, bird saver, and question asker. She knows more about baking and cooking than any nine year old I’ve ever met. She is always ready with an encouraging word for me. I am so thankful for this girl!

 

 

These are my three youngest students. They range in age from 5-8, but I have all three of them for science and P.E class.

The oldest student is Joshua. He is one of my two German students. His parents have asked me to include him in as many classes as possible to help him with his English. Joshua is a very bright student and he is a fast learner. He is a kind, patient and sweet boy. I’ve never encountered an 8 year old boy so well behaved. Whenever he isn’t in one of my class, I see his running everywhere! He’s like a young Forest Gump. He loves to run.

My other German student is Joana. She is the only girl in her age group, and she is the youngest. Neither of these obstacles have slowed her down. She only attend class three days a week, and I always look forward to those days. She has a feisty, sassy personality. Her mind moves quickly, and she easily makes connections to what we’re learning even though it’s not in her first language. Her body, much like her mind, is always moving. I have never had to remind her to hustle in P.E.

My third student is Ben. He is seven years old and has lived in Kenya his entire life. This kid keeps me on my toes. He is exceptionally bright, and his imagination has no boundaries. He has created a world inside his imagination where anything is possible. He references “Ben World” often during class, and I have to remind him that we’re in school not “Ben World”. As I’m saying this, I’m often thinking “I wish I could go to Ben World.” This world he has created sound much cooler than the four types of verbs I’m trying to teach them. Sometimes I wish I could climb inside his head just to see the world how he sees it.

 

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I hope this has given you a glimpse into my life as an MK teacher in Kenya. I truly  love what I do. My life is filled with ups and downs; joys and challenges, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. My students, their families, and my friends have filled my world with beautiful colors.

The first 7 Weeks

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ve been slacking in regards to updating this blog. However, in my defense, I’ve been having technology issues for much of the last 7 weeks. Regardless, I promise to do better from now on.

Here is a recap of the last 7 weeks.

I arrived in Kenya late on August 8th. I had no issues throughout my travels, and I praise God for his provision. I spent the next day in Nairobi shopping and getting my phone set up with a Kenyan chip. This was when my technology issues began. I had received a new phone as a birthday gift while in the states, but I had neglected to have it unlocked. My Kenyan chip wouldn’t work in my phone! I had to buy a cheap Nokea phone to use while my phone was locked. God bless my mother! she spent 2 hours on the phone with AT&T getting my phone unlocked.

I arrived at Tenwek the afternoon of the 10th of August. I have changed locations on the Tenwek compound, and I was not exactly thrilled with the new place when I first arrived. The first week was definitely a challenging transition. My house felt cold and damp. It smelled like paint. The bed was stiff as a board, and the water pressure was weak. Also my wifi router died 2 days after I moved in. I kept thinking “It’s good house with 4 walls, doors that lock, a good roof and a bed. I shouldn’t complain.” Thankfully the bad bed was temporary, the paint smell eventually went away, and I finally got a replacement router. I unpacked my stuff and decorated as much as I could. It now feels more like a home and not just a house.

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This little guy was hanging out in my front yard when I arrived back at Tenwek.

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The view out my front door.

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Once I had finished unpacking and moving furniture, I jumped into school planning. I spent most of the next three weeks splitting my time between my dinning room table and the school room. I felt like my life revolved aroud my job during those weeks, but it was worth it! All of that work has allowed me to feel more confident in teaching.

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During those three weeks of school planning, I did get out and have some fun. My neighbor Julie Gainy is involved with a ministry that helps women who are in difficult situations. She invited me to come with her on one of her ministry trips. This day trip was to mud a house for a widow. I enjoyed working along side this group of Kenyan women. These women were strong, kind and selfless. They worked all day in the hot sun to help their sister and neighbor. After we had finished, they then cooked chia and rice and beans to serve to us. This was a day I will not soon forget.

I also celebrated my 25th birthday on the 23rd of August. I’m not gonna lie this was a difficult birthday for  many reasons. My life has become something I never imagined, and sometimes thats exciting. While other times it causes me grief. My 24th year was a year of me slowly laying down my dreams, desires and hopes. While I’m excited to see what God has planned for my 25th year, I’m also grieving what I wanted in this life. I was experiencing all of these emotions on my birthday. It could have been a miserable day. Fortunately, my neighbors made the day very enjoyable. One neighbor brought me a card and flowers. Another neighbor made a delicious dinner of cheese burgers, veggies, chips and ice-cream sandwiches. I felt loved and cared for. I realized that no matter where I am God will give me a family.

The school year began on Sept 3rd. This year I am teaching a wide range of classes and age groups. My two main age groups are 4th-5th grade and 1st-2nd grade. I teach language arts for both groups. I also teach history to 4th-5th grade, and science and P.E to 1st-2nd grade. The first day of school went smoothly overall. We had a few moments of confusion, but we worked through them together. I felt prepared for the first day and have continued to feel that way each day since. Not everyday goes perfectly, but it always works out. I am still learning through every difficult day and rough week, but there are fewer of those than there used to be.

 

Over all the last 7 weeks have been filled with ups and downs. Please continue to pray for myself and my students. This will be another year of learning and growing, and with that comes the need for teachability. I must remain teachable or I become worthless in my profession. I also desire to be an example of teachability to my students, so that they will learn to be teachable. This is a very difficult thing to learn no matter how old you are.

 

Emotions

Wow 6 weeks went by quickly! Tomorrow I leave Illinois to return to Kenya, and my emotions seem to be at war with each other. I experienced a similar war last year, but these emotions are a bit different. Last year I felt mostly excitement and anxiousness. I feel those emotions this year as well as a host of new emotions. The new emotions are guilt, sadness and joy.

Guilt is an emotion I wasn’t expecting to feel. I feel guilt for choosing a life that takes me away from my family. I feel guilt from having to rely on the generosity of my supporters. I feel guilt because I can’t be there for family and friends who want me there when they need support. Over the last year, I have wished often that I could be in two places at once. I know that I am doing what God has called me to do, and often obeying God’s call requires sacrifices. When this guilt becomes heavy, I try to remember why I’m in this position. I am needed in Kenya to teach an amazing group of kids. I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Sadness and guilt go hand-in-hand. I’ve enjoyed my time with my friends and family, and I feel the end coming. I feel the weight of all that I am leaving behind. Quality time is my primary love language, so being away from those I love means less time with them. I know that this distance away doesn’t change the love have for my family and friends, and it won’t change their love for me. It just feels harder to leave this time than it did last time.

The joy of the Lord has been the healing salve to the first two emotions. I’ve had the opportunity to share with churches and small groups of people about my ministry in Kenya. Every time I do I have felt an overwhelming presence of joy. It is a joy that comes from God. This joy gives me peace when I feel anxious. This joy gives me freedom when I feel heavy with guilt. This joy softens the sadness.

I have been well loved during this short trip home. Particularly by my parents. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support. I could never thank them enough for all they have done for me.

I also owe a thank you to everyone who has renewed their funding support this year. I am fully funded for my second term!!

I ask for prayer for my return trip to Kenya. I have very short layovers in each stop, which means I have no wiggle room for delays. Please pray I make each of my flights. Also pray I have no issues at customs once I arrive in Kenya.

Home

Ten days have flown by. I have spent most of the last 10 days in Indiana visiting my Mom’s family. My grandmother had knee replacement surgery the same day I returned, so Mom and I spent a week with her while she recovered. The surgery went well and she is doing great with her PT. While I was in Indiana, I was able to spend time with my two lovely cousins Rachel and Rebekah. Rachel left for China on the 22nd, and she will be their for the next 6 weeks. She will be teaching English to adults. Please keep her in your prayers over the next 6 weeks.

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Being home has reminded me just how slow of a processor I am. Many people have asked me “are you experiencing culture-shock?” “how has your transition been?” and other such questions. I know many missionaries struggle with reentry, but so far I’ve had a smooth transition. Based on passed experience, I know I will process everything in my own time and in my own way. Right now I am simply enjoying this time of much needed rest.

Even from the other side of the world, work still calls my name. This week I have focused on getting final grade cards sent out and a school wish list made. I also still have to order curriculum and make a personal wish list for my return. If you would like to help me with the school wish list you can go to this site.  All of the books on this site are needed for our upcoming school year.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/8O9V9Z2VZ2MS/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_1

 

I will also be focusing on fundraising while I am home. Because of God’s faithfulness and your generosity, I only need $3,000 to return to the field in August. If you desire to give towards my second term in Kenya, you can make a donation at this website  https://www.wgm.org/volunteer/gracewilliams

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through donations and through prayer. I look forward to updating you throughout the summer.

No Longer a First Year

If you ask to any teacher, they’ll tell you that the first year is the worst. No matter how prepared you were for teaching, the first year always feels like running a marathon sprinting the whole way. On Friday, I officially concluded my first year as a teacher. It was not a perfect year. I made mistakes, but I’ve learned through those mistakes!

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When I came to Kenya 9 months ago, I had no idea what I was walking into. I didn’t know what a multi-age classroom would look like. I didn’t even know what the classroom looked like. I didn’t know what resources I would have. With all of these unknowns, and with my personality being one that likes to observe how things work before jumping in, the cards seemed stacked against me. I began the school year knowing I had a mountain to climb. I wasn’t alone though. God was with me every step of the way.  I daily brought my anxieties and insecurities to the Lord and he faithfully gave me His peace. I daily asked for wisdom,  and He faithfully opened my eyes to my students and their needs. It would be easy to look back on this school year and say “I had a successful school year. I did good.” but that would be inaccurate. The credit for anything good goes to the Lord. I also need to give credit to the people God placed around me. The parents of my students, my mentors and my friends were instrumental in helping me have a successful year. I could never thank them enough for their grace, patience, and wisdom.

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I must also thank those who have been supporting me and praying for me from the other side of the world. I wouldn’t be here without the financial support of my family, church family, friends, and strangers. I have been strengthened by prayers lifted up on my behalf. I have experienced the global body of Christ more fully this year than I ever could have imagined. I now ask for your prayers for me this week. I will be traveling to Nairobi tomorrow, and flying home to the states on Friday. While I am in Nairobi, I have to complete immigration verification, which is basically just the Kenyan government checking to make sure I’m here legally. Please pray that travel is smooth and uneventful. Please pray that all immigration check points are quick and simple. Also pray that my time in the states is sweet. I will miss my Kenyan home, but I am looking forward to being with my family again.  Five days till take off!!!

 

Why So Many Goodbyes

I’ve spent the last seven months meeting new people and building relationships with them. The families here at Tenwek have become my family. With all of the positives and negatives, we are a family. When I came here I prayed that God would make this place into a home, and help me develop a family here. God was faithful and He did just that. I never anticipated just how hard the goodbyes would be. This is only just the beginning.

Two families from Tenwek have left to return to the states. I had become close with both of these families. I shared meals with them. I taught their children. They had become my family.

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Johnny and Anna Shaw with their three children, Corbin, Caleb and Maddie.

Eli and Krista Horn with their three children, Caleb, Kai and Asa.

Today at my roommate Caroline left to return to the states. We had lived with each other for four months. During those four months, we shared many meals, much laughter and good conversations. We danced to The Greatest Showman while making dinner! We shared our hopes, dreams and fears with each other. She became like a sister to me.

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Caroline and I in Greece.

In eight weeks, I will say goodbye to three more families who will not be here when I return in the fall. I don’t want to think about this place without these families. To imagine a school year without these students hurts. I love these kids and their parents, and I don’t want to say goodbye. The worst part is they are hurting too. I can tell that they are pulling away. They are preparing for the goodbye, and trying to avoid as much pain as possible. For this reason, I can not checkout emotionally. I have to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually present to the very end for my students.

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The six Copeland Kids! Liam, Hayden, Harper, Charlie, Nora and Emery.

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Troy and Farrah Newman with their four kids, Will, Lynnlee, Baty, and Nick.

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Dylan and Jess Nugent with their five kids, Toby, Asher, Darby, Eugene, and not pictured new baby Naomi.

 

My prayer is that I will have wisdom and discernment with my students. That God will give me eyes to see what they need in all areas. I also pray that God will fill me with his strength as we finish the school year.