Nicole's Journey v4: "I Am a Mountain"

Before I arrived here, I sat in my office at a staff meeting and created my laundry list of things to work on while I was in Kenya. Basically it was a list of concepts, ideas of things we wanted to achive and information we wanted to find out. Quite frankly, I wasn't really sure how I was going to go about tackling this to do list, once I got to Kenya. To be honest, I had absolutley no clue. All I knew was that I needed to pack my bags, kiss my lovelies goodbye, get on that plane, and fly around to the other side to see what awaited.

What awaited me was a journey. One you can't really prepare for, because all you'll end up doing is getting in your own way. I did that on my first day here. Not being in control, or knowing exactly where to go and who to talk to, shook my confidence a bit. But soon I settled in to the journey, quieted my inner voice of control, and opened myself up to whatever came my way. And just listened. This was key. Listen. God has a plan here at work, and if you stay out of His way, beautiful things will happen. When I try and go left, He makes me go right. When I think I know where I'm going, He gets me lost so He can show me something. When I'm stuck in traffic in a stinky, hot, matatu, He plays a commercial on the radio containing a piece of the puzzle I need.

Keyans have a beautiful pace of life. "Pole, pole", they say. Take it easy, take it slow. That's hard to acclimate to as an American who is usually firing on all cylinders, and who's brain never seems to shut off. It makes me wonder what I've been missing, not listening because I am so noisy...

Jen said, "Seeing Creative Women of the World Kenya edition, new markets for the Mwangatu Women, creation of jobs, and potential income generating activities (IGAs) for the Simba Scholars beginning to unfold... Exciting things are happening around every corner... all we gotta do is keep our eyes peeled everywhere we go and opportunities seem to come knocking at our door!" It's so true. I feel like these last few weeks we have seen so much set into motion. So much potential. We've been planting a lot of seeds, and making a lot of wonderful connections and friendships. I cannot wait to see what starts to grow!

I have enjoyed so many aspects of my time here. I have loved working with our artisan women. If I could say this more eloquently, I would. But for me, having only worked with these women from half a world a way, my time here helped me to establish relationships with them that, I believe, is the key to making our work with them super successful. They trust us. They start to believe in themselves. They start to become empowered. And that's essentially what I'm working toward, right? Today, as we parted ways, one of the women, Grace, said to me, "Thank you so much for the work you are doing with us. It makes us very happy and excited." I can't tell you how much that compliment meant to me. "I love you, sister", says another as we say goodbye. I'm not sure I could have explained my gratitude to them for helping me put my confidence back together after I unravelled it on the first day.

I deeply loved getting to spend time with the kids. This did my heart and soul so much good. These are children that live in extreme poverty, have been hurt, have been abandoned, and been all but forgotten. And yet, they are so full of joy, and resilience. And they will love on you so much, that it spills over. I'm not sure I could have explained my gratitude to those little hearts that touched mine... (especially sweet Caroline, little Faith, beautiful Grace, and lovely Mercy).

I cherish the friendships I've made here. Njeri (our house mama), Francis (the most well connected person in Nairobi), Lydia (one of the most lovely women I've ever met), plus the many other people who played a pivotal role in my work here. I'm not sure I could have explained my gratitude to them for making this such a kind a comfortable place to call home for a moment.

And I have enjoyed, beyond words, the time I have gotten to spend with our International Advocate, and my friend, Jen Foster. We came to be friends in a roundabout way. A journey, all its own, that brought us here. We both agree that separate we are good, but together we are great! I'm not sure I could explain my gratitude for your guidance, and friendship during the past few weeks. You've impressed the pants off me, with your fast talking Swahili, and made me laugh till i thought my face would fall off. Mango Juice forever, my sister!

They say God can move mountains. Well, I must be a mountain, because I have been moved. Whatever I have given you, Kenya, you have given me so much more. I take with me joy (despite circumstance), pride, laughter, spirit, hard work, and kindness. And with you I leave a piece of my heart.

Nakupenda Kenya!