New Blog

Hello All!

Thanks for following my journey in Kenya!  I’ve created a new blog to go with my CMF page.  To keep reading about what God teaches me in Kenya, check out my first post on my new blog here: http://kkastens.cmfi.org/2015/09/07/ill-be-there-with-you/ and subscribe!

Change

I’ve been in Kenya for 8 months and I am amazed at how fast the time has gone!  And these past 8 months have been filled with everything under the sun.  There have been high moments and low moments.  New friends.  A new job.  A new house in a new country on a new continent.  I became a part of the Spiritual Department at MOHI.  I’ve traveled to all sorts of fun places in Kenya.  My parents visited for 10 days, which allowed our worlds to overlap a little.  I have a whole new community of American teammates and Kenyan co-workers.  I’ve written bible studies and mentoring and discipleship curriculum.  I have the opportunity to lead staff devotions.  I’ve gotten to teach bible survey classes to 6th and 7th graders.  And through it all, Jesus has been changing me more each day.  Even though all of these things seem normal to me now, they all involved change.  They say the only thing that is constant is change, so I know I can expect more of it.

All of that has got me thinking about life.  There are ups and downs.  New friends, jobs, houses, and states.  When these things change, it doesn’t take long before they are normal to us.  I am amazed at how quickly time has passed during these 8 months in Kenya.  It has become my normal.  It has become my home.

In my bible survey classes, we’ve been discussing the kind of change Jesus brings into our lives over time.  We have talked about sin and how it runs throughout the bible and into our lives today.  But from the very beginning, God has been pursuing us to remain in relationship with us.  He has been seeking us to bring redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus.  That required God to take on human nature.  Now that is quite a change!  Even a good change, like the one brought about through the incarnation, comes with difficulty.

Change is coming in my life again.  My Grandpa Clark is dying of leukemia.  Because of that, my departure date from Kenya is sooner than expected.  I will be back in the US on July 3.  This will allow me to spend some quality time with my family during this difficult time.  Losing my Grandpa is a change I expected to happen at some point.  But it’s a change that is extremely painful.  It’s painful to lose someone I love dearly.  It’s painful to be leaving Kenya so soon, to leave the people and the place that have become my normal.

At the same time, it all feels like a gift.  It’s a gift that I got to spend 22 years being loved by my Grandpa.  It’s a gift that I got to spend a while in Kenya and fall even more in love with it.  It’s a gift that I get to spend time with my family and friends sooner than expected.  It’s a gift to have the support of all of my co-workers, friends, and family.  God’s timing with all of this has also been a gift.

I’m excited to return to America, but I’m really sad to be leaving Kenya so early.  America, I’m excited to love on and spend time with my family.  I’m excited to hug my dear friends I’ve missed so much over the past several months.  I’m excited to worship with my Mountain family again for a while.  I’m excited to eat at Samos, La Tolteca, and Chili’s.  I’m excited to officially close one chapter and move on to the next one God is writing for me.  Kenya, I’m going to miss my friends who have become family.  I’m going to miss hanging out daily with the cutest kids ever.  I’m going to miss worshiping with my Kiamaiko church family.  I’m going to miss eating Ethiopian food once (or twice or even thrice) a week.  I’m going to miss being cold when it’s 62 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  I’m even going to miss the goat that “cuts the grass” in our yard every day.

But God knew before I came to Kenya that my Grandpa was going to die and god had a plan all along.  One big change for my life is that I have decided to commit to being in Kenya long term.  God knew this too.  These extra months in the US will allow me to begin to the process sooner of preparing to move to Nairobi, hopefully as late as early 2015.  God changed me so that I could bring a little change to Kenya.  If the only constant is change, as long as God is in charge, I’m okay with that.

I covet your prayers for me as I travel and for my family as we walk through these difficult days with my Grandpa.  Thank you all so much for your prayers, love, and support!

 

I Love Me Some Home

Home can mean so many things.  It can mean a house.  It can be “a taste of home” or a little something reminding us of home.  It can mean being with family or other people you love.  In Swahili, it’s nyumbani.

Home can even be something different to different people.  To me, it’s a house filled with the people I love and Fritz running to me with a wagging tail and sweet eyes when I walk in the door.  It’s a place where I can cook good food and enjoy good company.  Home means love and comfort and safety and security.  It’s a place where Jesus is present in all situations.

For some people, home is many places.  This is true for the semi-nomadic Turkana in Kenya.  Their homes can move to different places at different times.  For some people, like many in Mathare, home is a 10×10 metal structure with maybe a bed and a couch.  Some say “home is where the heart is,” which is tricky when your heart is in so many places.

For me, my heart is spread out everywhere! It’s in Joppa, Maryland with my family at home and at Mountain Christian Church.  It’s in Johnson City, Tennessee with my dear friends at Milligan College.  It’s in Nairobi, Kenya with my teammates, coworkers, and the beautiful people who live in Mathare.  It’s with my extended family in Ohio, England, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.  And it’s longing for home in heaven with Jesus.

I’ve learned a couple of things about suffering in relation to home.  For me, home is great.  And the suffering comes from separation from home.  This week, we said goodbye to our beloved dog, Fritz.  Of course, I was sad that Fritz won’t be running to me when I walk in the door this fall.  But my pain from this situation came because home is good.  It came from not being at home with my family as we dealt with this painful situation and the anxiety surrounding not being at home to deal with painful situations in the future.

For some people though, home is hard.  Home itself brings about suffering.  Some people have difficult relationships at home.  Some people lack love and comfort and security and safety at home. For Joseph, one of the children my parents sponsor, home is difficult.  We learned recently that his house burned down in November so he has been forced to move in with his aunt and her family along with his mother and two younger siblings.  It’s painful because they lost much of what little they owned.  It’s painful because sometimes there isn’t enough food for everyone.  It’s painful because the family rests solely on the shoulders of Joseph’s mother, Naomi.

Here is Joseph leading my dad to his house.

Here is Joseph leading my dad to his house.

Here is Joseph, his sister Grace, his brother Miguel, and his mom Naomi in Naomi's sister's home.

Here is Joseph, his sister Grace, his brother Miguel, and his mom Naomi in Naomi’s sister’s home.

But I have come to realize that Jesus knows our suffering.  He felt our suffering himself.  He knows how it feels to be separated from family during difficult times.  He knows how it feels to be without what is needed to survive.  Jesus came to be like us so that we can better be like him.  So that we can love and be loved.  So that we can forgive and be forgiven.  So that we, like Jesus, can do whatever it takes to bring God’s kingdom here now.

Some of my favorite music is from a group called Johnnyswim.  They have a song called “Home” and the lyrics have just been popping into my mind this week.  They say, “We’re all bruised and beaten. Lost on account of many reasons.  But only love would make you understand.  Home.  Oh, I love me some home.”  And it’s so true.  We’re all bruised and we all suffer in different ways.  We’re all lost because of our various sins and we’re all searching for someone or something to guide us and bring us back.  And love is truly the only way we can understand the pain and the suffering of others.  The love of Jesus, to be specific.  The only way we can understand one another is to love the way Jesus loves.  To minister to others out of our own brokenness because our love for Jesus and his people is so great.  And as a result, we’ll ensure that everyone has home.  The only kind of home that really matters.

I experienced a great taste of home at the end of March!  My parents came to visit me and share in some soul care retreats with some Missions of Hope (MOHI) staff and pastors.  Before the retreats, we got to take a mini-vacation together to the coast of Kenya.  It was so good to spend quality time with my parents after being away for five months!  We were able to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy the beautiful Indian Ocean.  We spent a lot of time laughing and talking and just catching up on life together.  We were able to travel to Turkana together to visit a college friend of my parents and see the MOHI center there.  We spent some time one morning visiting a village there and spent an afternoon at Lake Turkana!  My mom and I both love cooking and especially cooking together!  So of course we made time for that!  We went grocery shopping together and made a couple of delicious meals together.  It was fun having them come into my home and seeing all the aspects of my life in Kenya. We also got to share ministry together.  It was so awesome getting to invite my parents into my new world and do some ministry together.  I often say I joined the “family business” and for the couple weeks my parents were here it was truly family business.  Mutual ministry is one of the coolest things I’ve experienced and I’m so thankful for it. IMG_1894

We got to spend 3 days at the Baobab resort on the coast of Kenya.  The Indian Ocean is amazing and relaxation with family is even better.

We got to spend 3 days at the Baobab resort on the coast of Kenya. The Indian Ocean is amazing and relaxation with family is even better.

We also got to hang out at Lake Turkana with some of the MOHI staff.  It was a wonderful day of fellowship and fun!

We got to hang out at Lake Turkana with some of the MOHI staff. It was a wonderful day of fellowship and fun!

The beautiful Turkana woman invited us into her home!

One of the beautiful people we met in Turkana.

Many of you have been asking about what my life is like here.  So I thought it would be a good idea to include some pictures from my every day life in Kenya!  The following pictures are a little taste of what home in Nairobi is like for me!

This is the main MOHI center, Pangani.  This is where I work!

This is the main MOHI center, Pangani. This is where I work! My desk is in an office on the floor that is second from the top.

This is our house! It's a four bedroom house with 2.5 baths, a kitchen, and a living room/dining room.  We even have 2 balconies!

This is our house! It’s a four bedroom house with 2.5 baths, a kitchen, and a living room/dining room. We even have 2 balconies!

This is our living room! Don't you just love those chandeliers hanging from the ceiling?!

This is our living room! Don’t you just love those chandeliers hanging from the ceiling?!

This is the other half of the living room.

This is the other half of the living room.

We even have a washing machine!

We even have a washing machine!

Here is the kitchen!

Here is the kitchen!

And the other half of the kitchen.

And the other half of the kitchen

Here is my bedroom!

Here is my bedroom!

 

And the other half.

And the other half.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all of you who make me feel like I’m home in so many places!  Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support!  And a special thank you to those of you who sent goodies from the States with my parents.  I appreciate it so much!

Thanks so much to those of you who sent gifts with my parents!

Thanks so much to those of you who sent gifts with my parents!

Known.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with my desire to be known.  For my entire life I’ve been Kylie Kastens… Daughter of Rob and Kelly Kastens.  Blaine’s older sister.  A red-head.  A singer.  A student.  A children’s ministry volunteer.  A Milligan College Buffalo.  A disciple of Jesus.  I’ve been strong-willed.  I’ve been a leader.  I’ve been a part of great communities of people.  Now, I’m a CMF missionary in Kenya.  And that’s shaken up a lot of how I’m known.

For the first time in my life, I am establishing an identity that isn’t based on the ways I’ve been known before.  You might say that’s freedom and a fresh start…but it’s been hard for me!  I’m still all of those things I have been known for in the past.  But no one here knows those things about me.  So I have really been reevaluating myself and why I have such a strong desire to be known.

I think it is instilled in all of us to be known by someone.  We want to be completely able to be our true and real self with people.  When starting all over in a new community with all new relationships, it takes time to find these kinds of people.  I’m getting there.  But along the way, God has been teaching me that the most important person to be known by is God.  And he already knows me better than anyone else.  He knows everything there is to know about me.  It’s constant through a change in community.  It’s constant through any and all of the changes in my life.  There is no person in the entire world who can know me better than I am known by God.  And what a relief that is!  I’ve spent three months wanting so badly to be known by people and God has been patiently waiting for me to realize that he knows me and he knows me best.

The more I have become aware of this, the stronger my desire has become to really know God.  I’ve been following him for a long time but never before has my desire been this strong to know him.  Sure, I know about his character from the thousands of Sunday school lessons I heard as a child or from moments in my life when he’s revealed himself to me.  But now, I just really really want to go after him.  I want to be in sync with him and be moved with him like being moved with an ocean wave.  I’ve been focusing so much on his presence and trying to always be in his presence.  What better way is there to get to know someone than being with them, right?  I recently read about a guy who sought God’s presence once every single minute.  I’ve been trying this for the last couple of weeks and it has already been life changing.  I don’t think I’ve actually thought of him every minute but I have been inviting God to participate in every element of my day.  And I’ve seen him in so many places.  I’ve seen him in the faces of the many children I’ve seen in the community or at MOHI.  I’ve seen him in conversations I’ve had with roommates.  I’ve seen him in conversations I’ve had with friends and family in the US.  I’ve seen him through the students in the Bible classes I’ve been teaching.  I’ve been wanting to know God better and when I’ve looked for him, he’s revealed himself in so many ways.

The past month has been excellent!  I’ve been working in the Spiritual Department doing various things.  I’ve been working with Pastor Jane, the MOHI Chaplain, by doing some staff devotions, planning events for students, and developing training and curriculum for discipleship and mentoring initiatives.  I’ve also had the privilege of working alongside Rahab in teaching a Bible survey course to the students in classes 6 and 7 at the various MOHI centers.  I am beginning to establish true relationships with people now that I’ve been in the same department for a solid month and that is a huge blessing.  I’ve loved spending the afternoons with Rahab as we’ve taught these Bible classes.  Traveling to and from different centers every day has given us lots of opportunities to know each other and I am so thankful for that.  She’s even been giving me Swahili lessons!  And teaching these Bible classes has been awesome!  Thank you Milligan College for giving me a solid Bible education!  I never thought I’d be using that education in a classroom setting but I’m thankful and I’ve been so impressed with the Bible knowledge these students have.  They have a hunger to learn that I have never seen before.  It has been extremely encouraging to me.

The wazungu had a party for the Super Bowl.  It was on at 2 a.m. Nairobi time so we stayed up all night to watch the game.  Unfortunately, none of the U.S. commercials were broadcasted here.  We did get to watch the same rugby commercial over and over again, though.

Sunday, my church, Outreach Hope Church (OHC) Kiamaiko celebrated it’s second anniversary.  It was awesome to get to celebrate this milestone with the church!  Like any celebration, there were many presentations, lots of worship, and a short sermon.  We finished off the day with some cake and sodas.  We’re praying for God to keep blessing OHC Kiamaiko, just as he has been for the last two years.

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Here are several church leaders from Outreach Hope Church Kiamaiko cutting the cake at the 2 year anniversary celebration!

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I got to hang out with Joseph, one of the children my parents sponsor. He is in class 6 at the Pangani center and he has the sweetest smile and personality. He even shared some of his candy from his gift with me!

Waiting.

I’m not very good at waiting.  Many of you witnessed the difficulty I had waiting to leave for Kenya.  I’ve shared with some of you the difficulties I’ve had waiting for any amount of normalcy and regularity since being in Kenya.  God has been telling me to wait.  To wait for him.  To wait for his guidance.  To pay attention to what he has for me. And to be thankful in this season of waiting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it must have been like for God’s people to wait for their Messiah to come.  God had been promising a savior to them for so long.  Prophet after prophet told them to be ready for him.  What was it like for them to wait for this savior?  Did they get tired of waiting for him?

I imagine that people did get tired of waiting for Jesus.  I get tired of waiting for him.  And when I am tired of waiting, I fill that time with other things.  I make my own plans and fill my life and my soul with useless things.  Because of the useless junk, I’m missing out on what Jesus wants to teach me in the waiting.  Many of the Jews missed Jesus completely because they got weary in their waiting. They didn’t believe he was the Messiah and they crucified him.  I don’t want to miss Jesus and I don’t want to miss anything he has for me in the waiting.

In Bible study at church, we’ve been studying the book of Acts.  We’ve been talking about how important it is for us to have a spirit of expectancy as we wait for Jesus to come again.  We’ve been talking about Peter’s spirit of expectancy and his belief that Jesus was coming again, and he was coming soon!  Imagine the urgency that put on Peter’s ministry!  It’s no wonder that so many were added to the Church!!! I want my waiting to be like that, filled with expectancy and belief, trusting that God is at work.

In the times that I have been open to God in the waiting, I’ve gotten to experience awesome things!  God has opened up numerous ministry opportunities for me.  God has used these opportunities to teach me. At the end of November, I got to hang out with and learn from the girls who just completed Class 8 at Joska, a MOHI boarding school.  We discussed different obstacles they face in life and how they can overcome these obstacles in the future.  We finished up the day by worshiping together.  Through this, God showed me just how big he is.  We heard from a woman who grew up in a slum with a major physical disability, which basically means she should have had absolutely no hope for a better life.  However, she now has two college degrees and is starting a third to better prepare her for the ministry God has her in.  He’s big enough to overcome the obstacles we face and to be worshiped by people all over the world.  God has shown me many times how big he is, but there is something about the experience of waiting that makes his greatness seem even more powerful.  I’m learning that I need to embrace the waiting, that I need to actively wait for him. As cheesy as it sounds, he really is great and without him I am nothing.

Just before the Christmas holiday, we were invited to the Tailoring Graduation at MOHI.  Like most celebrations, it was an all day event filled with worship, scripture reading, recognition, and cake!  But the most special part for me was getting to pray over each of the graduates and their businesses.  It was such a cool experience!  It was a small revelation for me, as these women prepare for a new future, to look out and get ready because the work is coming!  For those graduates and for me.  I won’t be sitting at a sewing machine like they will, but God has prepared me for something specific here and the work is coming!

In early December, we went to the MOHI staff Christmas party.  For Mountain people, it was like Mountain Adventure Week all in one day!  There was food, dancing, presentations of awards and gifts, and worship.  It was a day to celebrate everything God had done in the year.  God taught me to celebrate in the waiting. Even when it’s hard.

And finally, God showed me that I’m not forgotten in the waiting.  So many of you have been a huge blessing to me and to my family this holiday season!  Thank you for the pictures and kind thoughts that you’ve expressed through texts and Facebook.  Thank you for hugging my parents and praying for them and me while we’re apart.  Thank you for sending me packages filled with USA goodies.  And thank you for your prayer and support!

P.S. Mountain People: CONGRATS ON SPONSORING 800 NEW CHILDREN!!!! What a difference y’all are making around the world.  I’m so proud of you and I’m so thankful to be apart of a community that cares about the least of these.

Sewing Graduation

Myself, Megan, Rachel, and Rebekah at the Tailoring Graduation.

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We got to eat at a Subway! It was a nice treat.

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Our neighbors and landlords had us over for dinner. We enjoyed nyama choma (roasted goat) and other Kenyan dishes. But we finished off the night with porridge our of gourds!

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We started off the New Year by hiking a volcano in the Great Rift Valley! Here’s myself, Rachel, Eric, Megan, and Rebekah at the top in front of the crater.

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I won a deep freezer at the Nakumatt, which is like our Walmart!!! Here is the manager of the store congratulating me on winning that beautiful deep freezer!

Brokenness, Surrender, and Transformation

Mathare Valley has many  characteristics that are defining.  When you walk out of the Missions of Hope International (MOHI) Pangani Center and into the slums, you immediately feel a difference.  You can feel the heat from open cooking fires and from the sun reflecting off of tin metal houses.  You can smell the trash piles and the water running toward the river that is filled with anything you can possibly imagine.  You can hear people shouting in  Swahili, “Mzungu!”  (white person) or the one English phrase they know, “How are you?”  This got me thinking about what my defining characteristics are.  When you look at me, you might see my impatience.  You could see my hot temper.  You could see my lack of grace.

But, thankfully, those things are not characteristics that define God.  And when you leave Pangani for an area of the Mathare Valley slum, you can see characteristics of God.  Because God is truly transforming this place.  In some areas, it is easier to see transformation than others.  But when areas are open to God, amazing things can happen!  The same is true of us when we surrender and let God transform us.  The characteristics that defined us before are being changed.  He is making all things new.

Surrender is never an easy thing for me.  I have to try long and hard.  It’s a lesson I have to learn at least once a week.  And, let me tell you,  it has been a daily learning since I arrived in Kenya almost a month ago.  In the November 3 reading in My Utmost for His Highest Chambers wrote, “Will I surrender to Jesus Christ, placing no conditions whatsoever as to how the brokenness will come?”

Recently, my mom shared with me a prayer to welcome the Holy Spirit into your soul and into your situation and to allow the Spirit to take over.  Sometimes, I have to repeat the prayer 20 times before I can surrender and let the Spirit have control.  It’s horrible.  And I’ve caught myself with the mindset that I’ve already surrendered my life enough by moving to Kenya that I don’t need to surrender anything else.  Hello!!!  This is certainly a time to be surrendering constantly, pushing my desires and my conditions for brokenness aside and allowing the Spirit to do transforming work in me.  How can I expect to do anything here if the Spirit is not in control? Without the transforming work of the Spirit I will always be defined by the same old characteristics.

Things have been different than expected here, which, ironically, I expected.  But it has forced me to remember to surrender.  Rebekah, Rachel, Megan (my teammates and roommates), and I have been helping with the Child Sponsorship program to help get Christmas gifts to children and Christmas cards to their sponsors.  We’ve also gotten to take pictures of new recruits at the various centers, students whose lives are about to be changed by God through MOHI .  Not what I expected to be doing but still so, so, so great and so important for the future of these children!

It’s in the moments when I look into the face of a child and see their brokenness – but also see Jesus – that I remember why I came here and why I’m passionate about being here.  Seeing God in others in Kenya has also helped me to remember that God is in me too.  1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”  I’ve heard these words from scripture so many times but  I need to keep hearing them.  It’s hard for me to surrender because I forget and don’t acknowledge that the Spirit is in me.  I will never realize that I’m not my own if I don’t realize that the Spirit is in me.  Only the transforming work of the Holy Spirit can change my heart and the characteristics that define my life. Jesus takes our brokenness and turns it into something beautiful. That’s why I’m here.

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These are children who are waiting for sponsors! If you are already sponsoring a child at MOHI, thank you! Mountain Christian Church friends who would still like to sponsor a child can visit the child sponsorship table at church! If you are not a Mountain person and you would like to sponsor a child, visit this website: http://cmfi.org/whatwedo/childsponsorship.