Karibu Kenya; Enkuan Dehna Metash (from Brayley Payne)

Friends, family, and supporters: I’m excited to send you all a joyous greeting from Africa! We are almost done with week five and I’m trying to find the words to tell you all how much I have loved my time thus far.

We began our trip in Nairobi, Kenya where we worked in two slums: Kibera and Mathare. Both were shocking at first to see the amount of people living in such a small area of this massive city. In Nairobi we also met our Kenyan guides Steve and Gus, two of the best people I’ve known in my life so far.

When week one came to a close we flew to another part of Kenya, an urban-rural community called Kisumu. Kisumu was amazing, there are no other words for it. That week we worked the hardest and had the longest days, but I felt so filled by God’s love and grace through the people we met and got to know very well there. On our first day we met with the pastors and their wives. We got to know them that week by visiting their homes and churches. One of the pillars of Life In Abundance is “Social Engagement”. In Kisumu (and many other communities as well) one of the ways they implement this pillar is through a program known as “Running Club” for vulnerable children to reach more of their potential. Every Saturday morning, many children meet on a field and run around, play soccer (football), and learn about the awesome love of God. Participating in Running Club was one of the most impactful days for me in Kenya. Kisumu is where God began to change my heart for His people, to have a desire to love them better.

After Kisumu, we got a big surprise! We went on a two day safari in Maasai Mara, Narok, Kenya. Anyone who knows me knows the love I have for animals of all shape and size. We saw zebras, giraffes, lions, elephants, cheetahs, wildebeests, buffalo, and antelope. Seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats left me in true awe of God’s creation. We also got to spend time in the Maasai community to learn about this beautiful and complex tribe. The Maasai we spoke with taught us about their ritual for boys. They leave the community for up to five years to learn how to survive and provide. Before returning home, a group of them must kill a male lion. Getting to speak with these warriors was incredible.

From Maasai Mara, we traveled to Narok Town where we spent the week visiting schools, homes, and churches. This was the week of my 20th birthday, where my team made me feel just as loved as my family would have. The day began in a school, where we encouraged the young students and sang songs together. A teammate of mine, Tyler, surprised me by having 500 African kids sing “Happy Birthday” to me. The day became even sweeter when our guide Steve took a 2 hour bus ride from Nairobi to bring me a cake with an American flag on it. The cake was then thrown in my face during a Kenyan birthday tradition. It was a very special day. Narok was the week that challenged me the most, but I still loved the community and the members we got to know. We especially laugh about how kids would stand outside the gate at our guesthouse (hotel) and shout “Mzungu, give me chocolate!” Mzungu is the Swahili word for white person. We were called that several hundred times during our three weeks in Kenya. Narok is also where I experienced my favorite church in Africa, a church under a tree.

I loved Kenya. I have a deep love and appreciation for the people there and for the culture. I also love the food, particularly chipati bread. We completed a great first half of the trip in Kenya.

Next, we traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here we met our Ethiopian guides Terife, Mesfin, and Dereje. They are also some of the best people I’ve met in my life. Ethiopia feels very western to us, as it is one of the oldest countries in the world with one of the richest cultures. Our first week in Ethiopia was great. We went on home visits, visited a clinic funded by LIA, and learned about the projects in Ethiopia that LIA has already phased out of. In Kenya, we mainly saw projects in process. In Ethiopia, we are mainly seeing projects completed.

As week five approached, we traveled to Debrezeit and Adama. We will be traveling to two more communities during the rest of our time in Ethiopia and I’m looking forward to meeting and encouraging more people and experiencing God’s love in new ways.

My favorite part of this trip has been creating deep bonds with the 5 other people on my team. Mandy has a desire to understand God’s Word like I’ve never seen, she is kind and warm and loving. Morgan is hilarious and encouraging; she loves to serve God and is willing to answer the tough call to do missions in hard places. Margaret loves God endlessly, she is the oldest and wisest in our group and she brings a new level of understanding to every situation. Tyler serves God and people through his music, he is so talented and passionate, there is rarely a time we find him not playing his guitar and singing. Last but not least, Win, who is deeply loyal and kind, she loves and cares for others in a way I’ve never seen before but admire so much. I love this team and I’m so thankful God brought all of us together on this trip, to serve and understand the awesome love of God together.

This trip has changed my heart, challenged and stretched me in new ways, and transformed my way of thinking.

As we complete our last few days in Africa, I want to ask for prayers that we finish strong, we are intentional with one another, and we simply enjoy everything we do. It’s easy to get caught up in the trip ending, but I want to be fully present until the last second, until we land in America. I have loved this trip. I know this won’t be my last time here because of how much I have loved it. I want to thank you all for the continued support and prayers. I couldn’t do this trip without the love and prayers coming from home.

I’m deep in the fullness of His joy!
Bwana Asifiwe.
Geta Yemesgen.

Brayley

Also called Makena, Naishurua, and Wubit. (These are the Kenyan, Maasai, and Ethiopian names I’ve been given. I can’t wait to tell you all what they mean.)

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