In the past month we’ve closed a musical, said many goodbyes to graduating students, goodbye to OFM teammates, “welcome back” to friends, Andy’s traveled to the Northern Frontier and Rwanda, played in jazz festivals, and we’ve hosted our Rendille and Maasai pastor friends and many other students and friends at our house. For sure, May was one of the busiest months in Africa we’ve ever had.
Many families around here like to travel over Spring break. Some go to the Maasai Mara to watch the migration of the wildebeest. Some go to the Indian Ocean and relax on the beach. Some even squeeze in a quick trip to Europe. Well, our idea of relaxation this Spring Break was a bit different, but still just as rewarding. We decided this was the best opportunity for our family to invest in the tiny Maasai village of Olepishet, where Lesa had led a group of HS students in January (Click here to read “More than I thought it could be”). We packed our Land Rover to the ceiling, including extra fuel and lots of water, and drove about 5 hours, way past the end of the paved roads, crossing rivers, driving up and down steep, rocky terrain, to reach this special place in our family’s heart.
We didn’t have a big agenda, other than camping and living in the community for a few days, and exploring ways that our school, and our family specifically, could invest in the people and church here. We spent several nights, sitting around the fire, eating roast goat and talking with the people about what God is doing in this community through the local church. We felt like real missionaries for once. Hours away from the nearest wazungu (white people), no longer under the supervision or care of some senior missionary. Just us and the Maasai.
At church Lesa and I were honored with Maasai necklaces and shukas (blankets) and staffs. We left feeling more encouraged by the community there than vice versa I’m sure, and that the beginning of a new friendship had come.
A few weeks ago, the pastor and an elder from the church came and spent the weekend with us at our home in Nairobi. We continued to share experiences together and talk about what the needs of the village are that the local church is trying to meet. And how we as a family, or the school, might try to help the church meet those felt needs. One of those needs was the area of HIV/AIDS and general health training and awareness. Another was in the possibly of helping to establish a medical clinic in the village (right now it is a couple hours’ walk to the nearest clinic), the first step for this would probably be some kind of vehicle for driving people to remote clinics until a dispensary is established in Olepishet. Another possibility was in educational needs of the community and/or sponsoring the pastor/elders for further theological training. At this point, there are no outside sources of help/community development in Olepishet. We may be the only people who are aware of these needs and who are hoping to meet them.
We’ve decided to pray on these things, and when we return in August to get together again when the school calendar allows. There is a possibility that Lesa will help lead a group there from school to do medical work 1st semester. We thank God for the opportunity to be a part of the lives and church in this special community. Please pray with us as we seek to build this relationship and encourage the church. As things progress, we will keep you informed of the needs of Olepishet, as any major community development projects there would require funds from outside sources. Please be in prayer about how God may lead you in this direction.
Upon returning from Olepishet as a family, we jumped right back into the thick of things at school. Rehearsals for “Seussical: the Musical” were in full swing, and Lesa’s cast of over 80 actors, crew, orchestra, managers, and directors kept her busy. Our whole family was busy, actually, with Andy serving as Technical Director and also playing bass guitar in the pit orchestra. Sydney had a short starring role as the elephant bird during the evening performances. And Robert and Avery pretty much think they own the theater. The show was a huge success – the best we’ve done yet! (Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?)
Mere days after Seussical closed, Andy was traveling with the On-Field Media team, finishing production on some projects that he’d been pushing off until the show was over.
He started with a trip on AIM AIR to Marsabit and Korr, and because OFM had chartered their own airplane, he had an extra seat and the opportunity to bring Avery along. Avery was put to work, though, as a grip, best boy, and official bird chaser (or any other animal that was making noise during filming sessions).
Avery was like a celebrity everywhere he went. Small white kids are a rare sight in these parts, and Avery’s entrance onto a school in Marsabit almost caused school to close for the day as every student wanted to shake his hand, touch his hair, ask his name, and generally just crowd around him staring. At one point, Avery, surrounded by maybe 100 kids, took off running quickly across the football pitch. It startled the kids so badly that half of them screamed, only to join Avery moments later in his mad dash.
In Korr, Avery’s favorite part was riding out into our many excursions into the desert on top of the Land Cruiser. He made quick friends with Pastor David Gargule’s children, as his children had 2 things most young children here didn’t have: English and pants. He also joined in, and nearly won, a limbo contest one night at the local secondary school.
Andy greatly enjoyed having Avery along on this trip, as nothing helps a 2nd grader understand what his dad does for a job better than taking him along. Later this summer look for the new AIM Identity film, which was shot on this trip.
Days after returning from this trip, Andy took Robert up to RVA for the weekend as Andy was a guest soloist/clinician in a concert with the RVA jazz band. A few days after that and Andy was off again to Rwanda for a few days on further production for the AIM Identity film.
The past week has been a time of intense transitions:
After 7 months of leading the OFM team, Andy’s friend and teammate Ted Rurup has returned to Kenya. Andy hands back the leadership of OFM to Ted, very thankful for the administrative burden to be lifted, but also glad for the opportunity to provide leadership when it was needed.
2 days after Ted arrived, the OFM team said goodbye to Kate Joyce, the OFM photographer for the past 17 months, as she transitioned back to the US.
We have recently transitioned into the role of leaders for the music/worship ministry at our church, International Christian Fellowship. We have seen God’s hand in this whole process at the church and are quite pleased and honored to step into this role. Of course, you all know that doing this brings us joy and is a huge part of who we are. We have enjoyed getting involved in the Leadership Team of the Fellowship and look forward to helping next year as it is also in a time of transition in its structure.
Life at school has been amazing for me (Lesa) this year. I have been on a sharp learning curve, as it had been so many years since I had been in a classroom. I’ve finished up the year feeling pretty good about my classroom teaching and great about the shows. Next year I will increase the number of classes I teach. I will also be overseeing all the high school worship teams for chapel, as well as teaching a few private guitar and voice lessons. This is all a tremendous privilege and joy for me. My rosters for next year are much fuller than this year, as I guess its gotten around that Mrs. Brown isn’t so bad after all.
These are my courses for next year:
1st semester High School: Intro to Theatre, Communications, Worship, 2 Independent Studies (Acting/Directing and Playwriting).
Middle School: 8th grade “Careers” class and 7th grade Speech
2nd semester High School: Intro to Theatre, Acting, Discipleship. Middle School: 8th grade “Careers” class and 7th grade Speech
I have been blessed by how much love God has given me for my students. I’ve had some wonderful mentoring opportunities with many of them, and pray that these will continue with them next year (and even with the graduates over FaceBook!) Please pray for me as I minister at school, not only to missionary kids, but also to many students from a variety of cultures (36!) and faith backgrounds. Graduation was a bittersweet time for me. It was such a privilege to sit amongst the faculty on the stage during the ceremony and hear about the students’ accomplishments and future plans, as well as to attend grad parties. What an amazing group of students and what a school to get to be a part of. But it was difficult, as some of these students have been in all four of my shows since I came to the school last year, some went with me to Olepishet for CFS, and all have grown dear to me. I can’t imagine how I will cope with this year after year!
June 1- Lesa and the kids leave for America
June 11- Lesa’s sister, Katie, gets married
June 22- Andy flies to America to join the family
July 5- Lesa starts 3 weeks of summer school at University of Northern Colorado (Masters in Theater Education)
July 31- Andy’s sister, Emily, gets married
August 1- We fly back home, to Kenya
We wish we could see you all this summer, but as it is not a furlough summer for us (and will be full of family commitments!) we are spending most of our time in Kansas and Illinois, with Lesa in Colorado for 3 weeks for grad school. Summer 2011 will be our regularly scheduled furlough, with our full circuit from Virginia to Colorado and every state in-between.
Thanks for the opportunity to be your missionaries in Africa. May God bless you richly for your prayers and financial support over the past 3 years.
In God’s grace,
Andy, Lesa, Robert, Avery, and Sydney Brown