Thank you so much for sharing a little about your experiences serving on the mission field in Kijabe, Kenya, East Africa. I'm especially excited to hear about your experiences and how they may be similar or different to those I researched and wrote about in KenyaQuest.
What was your first impression of Kenya?
The city of Nairobi seemed loud, confusing, and so very different from our home in New Jersey, but the people were very warm and friendly. I was impressed with the natural beauty of the Great Rift Valley, which we passed on our way to the place we were going to live for one year. Kijabe is a large mission station with a Bible college, hospital, and Rift Valley Academy. I was surprised to see the modern homes, monkeys on the road, and the beautiful flowers.
Tell us about what experiences led to your decision, or to your family’s decision, to serve in this way?
My husband had taken two short-term trips to Kenya. He made friends with ministry leaders there and was invited to return. We met another couple who had gone to Kenya for two years and taken their whole family. We thought that would be a great learning experience for all of us. We contacted Africa Inland Mission and applied to go to Kenya for one year. Our five children were ages 9 – 15, and it was great for them to live outside the US for a year and see what life is like in another country. It was a life-changing experience for all of us.
Describe the most frightening experience you’ve had?
Some of our missionary friends who had gone through orientation with us had to be evacuated from the neighboring country of Congo because of an uprising there. They lost everything. Their home, school, and mission station were all destroyed. They came and stayed with us for a time before returning to the US, and it was heartbreaking to hear all they’d gone through to escape. Shortly after that, national elections were scheduled in Kenya and we were told there might be a violent reaction to the results. We were instructed to each pack a small bag and be prepared to evacuate on short notice. It was a scary time for us, knowing we were responsible not only for ourselves, but also for our five children. We were very thankful when the elections passed and most of the country remained calm.
Now, describe the most joyful moment you had in your new home?
My husband was a teacher at Moffatt Bible College, and we enjoyed getting to know the students who were preparing for ministry. One night we planned a special ice cream party for the students. Many of them had never eaten ice cream, so we hoped this would be a special treat for them. There was much laughter as we served bowls of cold ice cream and then played some games together. Some students enjoyed the icy treat, others held their bowls over candles to melt it and warm it up because they were not used to eating cold food. It was such a fun night, and we enjoyed connecting and sharing that special time with our Kenyan friends.
What has been the most challenging thing to learn about life in Kenya?
One of the challenges for me was learning to slow down and take more time greeting people before jumping into the reason for my visit or request. Kenyans value relationship more than time. They are not in a hurry. This was an important lesson for us to learn in order to be more effective in our ministry and when we came home to the US.
Describe a spiritual lesson you’ve learned on the mission field?
By living simply, often without power and with truly uncomfortable furniture, I learned how much I relied on physical comfort to be in a “happy” mood. Living in Kenya helped me grow in the area of acceptance and contentment. I learned to be thankful and enjoy the natural beauty and special friendships for encouragement rather than relying on physical comfort.
Describe what you have learned about the people you were serving and their culture?
One of the things we appreciated about our Kenyan friends was their joy and enthusiasm for serving the Lord and His people. The students at the Bible college knew they were probably not going to receive an income from pastoring a church. They would also probably face many hardships, but they were determined to follow the Lord and answer His call in their lives. That was very convicting and motivating for us.
How did your time in Kenya impact your writing journey?
With the slower pace of life in Kenya and long quiet evenings without power, I had more time to read, and my storytelling imagination woke up. When we returned home to the US I missed Kenya so much I decided to write a novel set there as a way to relive my experiences. I didn’t know anything about fiction techniques, so I just poured out the story as a fun escape. The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed the process. I attended my first writers’ conference shortly after that, and discovered I had a lot to learn to write a novel worth publishing. I wrote five full-length novels before the first one was published, but I will always consider that first Kenyan novel as the beginning of my writing journey.
Is there anything that you missed from your home of origin, and what do you do about it?
At first there were many things we missed from home—bagels and cream cheese, pizza, movies and television shows, and the ease of running to the store to pick up an item for a recipe. But as time passed the beauty of the people and God’s work in our lives made those things fade from view. We had so many wonderful experiences together, including lots of time to visit wildlife parks and see so many amazing sights. Most of all we had the joy of seeing Him work in our lives and the lives of our children.
Thanks so much to Carrie for sharing her experiences. I'm amazed at how they reflect some of the same lessons I've learned on the mission field and what I've learned about Kenya.
If you enjoy the International Mission Force, you might enjoy Carrie's novel about missionary-turned-governess, Julia Foster. Check out The Governess of Highland Hall.