Monday, September 29, 2014


I am sure rest looks different throughout life. Right now, I am not sure I'm very good at it. I want to be and I've learned a little bit about saying "no" at times. But even with no outside "obligations" I find some to place on myself. I've kind of always been more of a "do-er" and less of a "be-er".

What is your go to place of rest? While I am not great at rest, being in nature is my favorite way to rejuvenate.

When our work week came to an end last week and we were in our usual post church nap/lazy Sunday mode the opportunity came up to enjoy an overnight trip to a friend's cabin in Arrowhead. So 30 minutes later we were packed, picking up the keys and on the road. We love this cabin. I've gone there as a leader in youth ministry, with friends, as a college ministry leader, to celebrate Charles' birthday and it's the place we got engaged. So, plenty of great memories. It was quick trip but I am so thankful for the generosity given to enjoy it and get away. Even the little grocery store, Jensen's, means happy get away!

I've learned that whether it's a quiet lunch break outside, an evening walk, a much needed talk with a friend, cleaning or time journaling at a coffee shop - downtime is so important to me. We all need it. Whatever your time of rejuvenation is, seek it out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quines Fam of Four

I say I'll blog more, and then I don't. But hey, here I am. Yay, me (celebrate the small) and yay for the Quines family. I love these friends and am so excited for their growing family. These two little ladies are beautiful. We just took a few shots but I am glad to capture these sweet moments. I was just reminded of how I did Laura's hair for their wedding. Now two kids later we get to share in life and I'm capturing their family as they grow. I am thankful for friends and the long term role people play in our lives. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nairobi, Kenya: The photo project

So, I was telling Arty (one of our mission pastor and Kenya leader) about this thing called Help Portrait and how we should think about hosting a help portrait event with our local community partners. This would be a special day with free family photos taken and printed on site for local families in transitional living or just people from the community who might not get the opportunity to have a portrait taken. Pretty quickly Arty got excited and announced that we need to do this project in Kenya. So, while I was thinking about the different global trips Eastside had coming up he helped me decide for sure I would be going back to Kenya. Fast forward 6 months and I was in Kenya - ready to figure out how this whole thing would work.

I did a lot of research and did a lot of price comparison on amazon and ended up with all our supplies:
Portable Printers, Ink & Paper from Canon  /  Batteries & chargers  /  White photo mats  
Tape  /  Markers  /  Card readers  /  Photographers

We had a plan and were ready to take up to 3,000 photos in our 5 days of this project. Our plan didn't go quite as expected. We got to the first day, drove down a small alley in our big bus and arrived to a huge crowd waiting. They had heard about the family photo opportunity. My immediate thought was something like, "Oh crap." I mean, it was really awesome but I wasn't sure we could get through everyone in the crowd and was sad just thinking about turning people away. 

This picture is borrowed from Taylor (my photographer partner) since I was too overwhelmed to capture the scene around us. This line went on and on. Our Kenyan friend was showing people an example of what they would be getting.

Well, we took a ton of pictures, printed as fast as we could and caused a bunch of chaos. People were cutting, pushing and getting a little bit upset. Order and lines weren't really working. When we finally stopped to breathe and eat some lunch we had to come up with a new plan. We weren't getting to share why we were doing this and connect with anyone. We wanted to opportunity to get to know them and share a little about God's love.

So.. time for a new plan:
- Hand out 40 frames to the next 40 families in line
- Take pictures of those 40 families
- Send each family to our waiting area while we print
- Our Kenya team would then share about who God is and his love for them (and some other stuff I couldn't understand)
- We would print away
- The families would get the opportunity to ask God into their lives, receive prayer or just connect with our team
- That round of families would leave and we would start with the next batch

This became our new plan and it worked really well at each location. I still have yet to count but we did somewhere in the area of 1500 family portraits in four days. This meant we got to connect with, smile alongside and provide a picture for over 4,500 people - not to mention share about God's love and pray with many of them about the deep yet basic necessities of their lives.  Many of these adults had never had a picture of themselves or their families. It was so interesting, heart breaking and yet life giving to see them look at and proudly walk away with their portrait. 

Taylor captured this picture of our sponsor child and her mom on the first day! 

The finished product

One of our team members praying with a gentlemen from the portrait session after sharing her testimony

I saw a bunch of kids gathering around something as I ran back to take more portraits so I snapped a picture. Later I found out Taylor was in the picture drawing an elephant in the sand. Love it!

The waiting area / Sharing the gospel during photo printing

Kaci working hard!

Taylor and I on the last day - Captured by Kaci Thomas
I am so proud of Taylor. When she heard about the photo project she couldn't wait to sign up and use her passion & talent with families in Kenya. She was great with everyone and so intentionally loved each person in the community. She's just started college and I know God has big plans for what's ahead on her journey. I can't wait to see how that unfolds.

I am honored I got to be a part of this new project in Kenya and each family who came to a photo session. I hope that each time they see their portrait they know how valuable they are and are reminded of the hope their creator. I look forward to seeing how this idea unfold for future trips.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nairoib, Kenya part two: Our Kenyan Daughter // Joska

This is Lydia.
Seeing her face as I type makes me smile.. and miss her. She has been my sponsor child for about 6 years. I finally got to meet her this year! After many letters and years it was great to finally hug her. She was quiet, sweet, so excited to play soccer and had such joy in her spirit. I loved seeing Charles meet her. Even though I didn't even know him when I decided to sponsor Lydia he couldn't wait to hug her and tell her she was loved. It was kind of hard to connect with her but I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be to connect with someone from around the world. She ran off to play soccer with the other kids and brought me so much joy to see her in a safe place where she gets to run, learn, be fed daily and know God's love.

Lydia was learning to use my camera and took this photo. She shyly smiled as she saw what she captured.

So grateful for Charles and his intentionality in caring for people so well.

Each child who is sponsored experiences a truly different life. So many parents in the slums struggle to provide the basic needs for their family. Many women have been left to raise their children (and grandchildren) alone due to the lose or leaving of a husband. Five, six or more people will live in a shanti home smaller than half of my living room (which is really 'tiny' in our standards). With little opportunity to bring in consistent income their kids often work at a young age and take care of their siblings. This often means they do not get education. They aren't able to end the cycle they experience. The basic needs of life are so desperately hard to come by.

One of the greatest pieces of this trip was seeing the huge difference in the community since my first trip in 2007. In '07 the slums of Pangani were filled with aggressive drunk men, children suppressing hunger by sniffing glue, violence and spiritual darkness. The Missions of Hope school was newer and had about 350 children in attendance. There are currently over 1300 kids who attend school in Pangani now. They've built upwards many stories to accommodate more children. With more children being sponsored more families are provided for. The parents are supported by their children being fed daily, receiving health care, learning life schools and much more. Also, parents have the chance to better themselves by learning a trade like cosmetology, knitting, sewing and more. Maybe the biggest change in the valley is thousands of students and their families learning about who God is. They have hope, healthy choices and a great community. All of this has led to a community that lacks darkness. I didn't see any drunkenness, violence or glue sniffing. A dense community of people is so positively different because of a women with a dream, a school filled with committed staff and teachers and people from around the world who invest monthly to make sure these kids have a different future.

This is Joska: the boarding school for older teens. It's a few hours from the city. When I stood at Joska in 2007 it was a recently acquired piece of land with plans to be a school. We prayed over it and drove away. Today, this is the main amphitheater. It holds over 1000 kids (I don't know exactly how many). As we arrived the kids gathered to sing songs of worship, dance, perform and thank us. We got to feed them all hamburgers and deliver new shoes to many of the kids.

At Joska there is a culinary school for girls. Our team of chefs have poured their souls into these girls and their education. US Foods sponsored our trip with many supplies and the girls prepared a Mexican feast for us. It is so beautiful to see a group of young women learn such valuable life skills and have the chance to pursue their career dreams. They are so hardworking and deserve such a great future!

I didn't know this was happening but Eastside brought a check for $150,000 to Joska. This is a chance for them to build up their dorms and house more students. This means hundreds more can be educated, cared for and become leaders in their community. This really is life changing. These students are committed to being the people who provide change and I can't wait to see what happens. It was a beautiful moment and I am proud of our church for investing so much in compassion efforts around the world.

My summaries don't do justice to the way life is lived in the slums. It really challenges my perspective, breaks my heart and brings me joy. God is so present and alive in such beautiful ways. Friends, please don't overlook your ability to bring joy to those around you.. wherever you are.

Up next: The Photo Project.