We went to Mombasa last weekend, in partial fulfillment of our orientation requirements, and in partial fulfillment of ourselves and getting away from the busyness our lives are in right now. We stayed with some new friends of ours, Justin and Shannon Brown, in Mombasa’s Old Town which was built in the 1500’s. It was the closest we’ve been as a family to life in an islamic culture since Lesa, Sydney and I went to North Africa 3 years ago. Waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the call to prayer in 12-part dissonant harmony from the dozen mosques in the vicinity, sweating it out in the oppressive heat and humidity even at 4 in the morning, reminded us alot of where we were when we experienced that original confirmation/call into missions.
The drive to Mombasa from Nairobi is like this: 2 hours of the worst roads followed by 6 hours of the best roads in all of Africa. We left around lunch time on Friday, stopping along the way to treat ourselves with snacks and sodas and a sit-down Kenyan-style meal, and arrived at the Brown’s around 10pm. We didn’t sleep too well, though, as it was all we could to do stop thinking about the heat as we lay sweating on top of our beds, under the mosquito nets, with fans blowing on us.
The next morning we did a little grocery shopping, ate lunch out, and spent the afternoon teaching at AIC Tudor, a large church in the Tudor area of Mombasa Island. Lesa and I had been invited to give a workshop on worship to the worship teams of this large church. It actually went pretty well, we decided to focus on what God says about worship in the bible and how important it is to Him, apart from our individual forms of expression since the Kenyan style of worship is vastly different than our western style. Lesa and I both had some serious points we wanted to get across, without sounding like we were judging their expressions of worship but wanting to help them raise the bar. We talked about God, about worship, sang some songs together, talked about practical steps in preparing a worship service, then opened it up for questions. From the questions we were asked (like “how do we coordinate the singers and the band when starting a song?”) we could tell our objectives had been subtly achieved, in getting them to take worship seriously and wanting to strip away the distractions that drive Lesa and I crazy like keyboard/guitar players taking the entire song to find out what key the singers had started in. “Great question,” we responded, and demonstrated how hard it is for an instrumentalist to pick out the key when the singer starts first, but how easy it is to prompt the singer with a pre-determined chord and key. We sat down afterward with a few instrumentalists and singers and went through some of the handouts on piano and guitar and worship leading we had written.
I know this seems like common sense to you westerners, but the traditional African style of music is largely vocal and rhythmic, not based in keyboard or guitar, so as they try to add these instruments (which for some reason they feel they must add) and a big loud sound system, you get a lot of chaos unless the guitarist or keyboard player is also the worship leader or is highly skilled. We hope what little we had to offer will help the church in the long run, and we’re looking forward to doing more of this kind of thing in the future.
On Sunday we had been invited by the AIC coast area bishop to come to his church and lead some songs and give the Palm Sunday message. We left Sydney with the Browns, who have 2 little girls, and the rest of us drove to AIC Chamgamwe. Not really sure what to expect or what would be required of us, we overprepared but were thankful. We expected a 3 hour service in Swahili and were not disappointed. We led a couple songs, I gave a message on worship and how Jesus’ death ripped the temple curtain and moved worship from the temple to our hearts, how the Father is seeking people to worship him with heart,soul,mind. It was my first time giving a message in an African church, though not my first time speaking with a translator. I actually spoke for maybe in a minute in swahili, greeting the church and introducing my family. Beyond that I can’t think fast enough to not bore the people to tears.
After church we had lunch in the pastor’s office (ugali, sukuma, chai, even some bread-and-butter for us wazungu [white people]). We went back to the house after this and crashed. Late afternoon we went out with the Browns and toured through Old Town. Most of Old Town has streets too narrow for cars, and is full of women covered head to to toe in black, men in white robes and skullcaps, children running all about between prayer times. Mosques everywhere, ornately carved wooden doors on everything.
We spent the next day, our last day, at the beach. You can’t go all the way to Mombasa and not go to the beach, right? We paid a daily rate at one of the hotels and swam in the pool and ate at the hotel. We also hired a local boat captain to take our family out for a bit on a big dugout outrigger sailboat. When we’d had enough we returned to Old Town, where the boys and I grabbed a tuk-tuk (3 wheeled taxi) to go visit Fort Jesus, a 16th century fort built by the Portuguese.
It rained that day, and in Africa when the rains come, so do the termites. Something about the rain that hatches their eggs or frees them from the ground, and suddenly the air is full of these little flying bugs. The first time this happened at our home in Nairobi we thought a plague had come upon us, as these little guys head immediately for your house and squeeze through every crack in every door or window, often leaving their wings behind. We would awake puzzled to find a big pile of wings at the threshold of our doors, until we figured out this is a normal part of life here. In fact, flying termites are a delicacie, and when they come it is like candy that is flying through the air to the children.
Well, Justin and I decided we need to know what the big deal is with people loving to eat termites, so we rounded up the dozen or so that were crawling on his kitchen floor, and threw them into a frying pan with a little oil. I called the boys to the table, and we feasted. I think anything that small and fried in oil can’t be too bad. Neither did the boys as we all enjoyed several of the crispy treats.
We’re back in Nairobi now, trying to wrap up our lives here as we’ll be leaving in 3 and a half weeks for America. I’ve got a video and web project I’m trying to wrap up, Lesa has the big “the King and I” production in 2 weeks, and we have a house to pack up. It’s a strange mix of emotions, like the ones we felt moving here, knowing we’ll be right back, but feeling a little anxious about coming to America. Like we don’t really know how we’ve changed until we experience the “reverse culture shock” of re-entry. Anxious that everyone will be wearing space suits or speak some new language or have a completely new cultural cues (tv shows, movies, etc) that are a part of every conversation that suddenly we don’t know about. But we’re most excited to see everyone and catch up relationally with you. Sharing meals and lives and swapping stories. That’s the African way!