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rains in kakuma.

October 24, 2014
Flooding in Kakuma

Please keep Kakuma in your prayers.

You may have already seen my post on Facebook, but a few days ago there was horrible flooding in Kakuma. The worst they’ve had in 10 years, according the NGO staff we spoke to. At first, we were confused because it had not rained much that day, but later discovered that the water was actually from Uganda and was flooding parts of the camp and the surrounding Turkana villages.

Homes were wiped out completely. Many spent the night with nowhere to stay. People died. We found out the next day that there were a group of 6 people that had all had their arms around each other trying to cross the river that had been created from the rains. All of them died, including a mother who was carrying her baby on her back.

The thing to understand about the weather here is that there are rarely times of comfort. If it is not raining, it is most likely extremely hot and dusty. Sometimes you can barely see because of the dust blowing around in the wind. If you go out into the camp, it’s a flat desert. There are very few trees and places of shade from the hot sun. The times it is cooler is when it is raining. However, the rains make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to get around. Even driving around in a jeep, it is easy to get stuck in the mud. The rain also brings mosquitoes and disease. While some homes have mosquito nets, many do not. We come and lather ourselves with repellent, spray our clothes, protect ourselves at night, and takes our malaria pills every day. The refugees do not have these resources available to them.

Yesterday, Mark (our traveling companion from the International Association for Refugees) went out the IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) near Kakuma. His organization had hoped to build a well in the camp, as the residents have to walk 5 kilometers just to get water. They discovered that there is no place in the camp to even dig a well. It is completely dry beneath the ground. Often times, the internally displaced residents are worse off than the refugees, who receive rations and water throughout the camp.

These are people who are stuck in no-man’s land. These camps are supposed to be temporary, but many stay for decades. They are challenging conditions. In our training the other day, a few men thanked us for being “brave” enough to come out to the camp. They were practically in disbelief that anyone would choose to come to a place like this.

So as you sit in your air conditioned, bug-free home and eat your nutritious breakfast tomorrow morning, think of Kakuma and pray for these people. Pray also that they would not be forgotten and more would be done to reach out to them and provide them with the resources and services they are lacking.

IMG_3062Roads in KakumaFlooding in Kakuma

almost human again.

October 18, 2014

We’re alive and (not really) rested.

After about 19 hours of traveling, we made it to Nairobi! I think all my little naps probably only equated to about an hour of sleep, but on the plus side, I slept through the night last night to the sound of rain outside my window! Between that and the hot shower I took before bed last night, I’m almost fully human again.

We stayed the night at the FPFK Guest House in Nairobi, which is amazing after a long day of traveling. We got up, had some coffee and a wonderful breakfast, and then will walk over to a little shopping mall nearby in about an hour to exchange money and…probably get more coffee.

This afternoon we will drive to the airport and take a tiny (somewhat frightening – the small planes are always a bit frightening) plane ride to Lodwar, in Northwest Kenya. From there is the longest (and maybe most frightening) part of the journey, from my perspective – a few hours via Land Rover on the bumpiest road you’ve ever seen. We spend about as much time off the road as on it…I wish that was an exaggeration. Don’t ever complain about the potholes in the U.S. I guarantee you they don’t hold a candle to these craters.

Please pray for safe traveling today! By the time you read this, we will probably be on that tiny plane to Lodwar. Pray for:

– A safe and uneventful plane ride to Lodwar.

– No flat tires on the journey from Lodwar to the camp! This might just be a pipe dream, but we can pray!

– Safety along that road, in general.

– Continued health. We’re all doing relatively well, so far, so we’d like to keep it that way!

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Our ride from Amsterdam to Nairobi

Our ride from Amsterdam to Nairobi

Waiting and trying to stay awake

Waiting and trying desperately to stay awake – eating, reading…taking random selfies. Whatever works.

africa | take 2.

October 16, 2014
Kakuma Refugee Camp - just south of the border of South Sudan

If you would have asked me a year ago if I’d ever travel to Africa, I would probably respond, “I hope so!” with no thoughts of checking this particular item off of my bucket list anytime in the near future. A 5-year graduate program usually means “no life” for 5 years.

However, much to my surprise, in less than 5 hours I will be flying off to Kenya for the 2nd time this year!

Last March, I had the opportunity to travel with the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College to conduct several interviews in Kakuma Refugee Camp to help understand the development of a local group of churches that is having a positive impact in the camp and surrounding community.

This time around, I am excited to be doing some follow-up interviews focused on treatment of women within the organization, lay the groundwork for my potential dissertation related to Gender Based Violence in Kakauma, and begin to set up a community-based trauma care program in the camp to train pastors (and potentially others) some basic skills in lay counseling.  This is a really important project, as there are currently about 180,000 refugees in the camp and very few mental health services available to them. Another graduate student and I actually get the opportunity to do a little bit of the training ourselves!

Please be praying for us as we go on this trip. Here are some things to consider in your prayers:

1. For safety as we travel. Kakuma is one of the best-run refugee camps in the world, but there are still some risks being Americans in this area.

2. For health! We are all the way across the continent from the Ebola outbreak, but there are other risks, such as Malaria and dehydration (the average high will be about 99 degree while we’re there), among other potential illnesses.

3. That the NGO’s we work with will be receptive and open to working with us on this project. Although we have already talked to them about this initially on our last trip, we really need their continued support and involvement in this program. I am also planning to talk to several of them about my thoughts for dissertation and will be needing their support.

4. Please pray for the refugees and NGO staff in Kakuma. When we were there in March there were about 500 refugees a day coming in the camp, primarily from South Sudan. This has not slowed down much and they are even having to expand the camp. The NGO’s are having a difficult time keeping up and it can even take quite some time before food and water gets out to the new refugees.

5. Pray that God would intervene and end the Ebola crisis! Again, this is nowhere near where we will be in Kenya, but the outbreak has been devastating for much of Western Africa and continues to spread. We need to keep this in our prayers!

I will work to keep you updated and will also be posting on a blog for Wheaton College, which I will connect with this website. Thanks in advance for your prayers and support!

Kakuma Refugee Camp - just south of the border of South Sudan

Kakuma Refugee Camp

sailboat // ben rector.

August 28, 2013

Ever since Ben Rector’s new album “The Walking in Between” came out just last week, I’ve been listening non-stop. Give his song “Sailboat” a listen! It won’t leave my head. And I’m not unhappy about it.

Buy it. The whole album. You won’t be sorry.

an [im]possible standard.

August 18, 2013

I’ve officially moved to Wheaton! Believe it or not, I’ve already been here for a month. I’ve moved in with my sister, started my job, and am anxiously awaiting the start of my program in just a few weeks! My little “break” before my program has been wonderful, but to be honest, there are a lot of challenges that come with moving to a new place, starting a new job, and preparing for an intense program. In fact, I’m realizing how much pressure I can put on myself – and I’ve been feeling it now probably more than ever.

Whether we can acknowledge it or not, we have all set a bar for ourselves. Let me show you mine:

  • Because I’m a doctoral student, I should always sound intelligent when I speak with others. Doctoral students don’t fumble over their words, they articulate themselves well, and they should be able to keep up with practically any conversation – whether it be about politics, history, psychology, sports, pop culture, etc. Doctoral students keep up with it all, and should be able to carry on a conversation regarding just about anything.
  • Because I’m on my way to becoming a psychologist, I should have good relationships with each of my family members. Psychologists have healthy relationships, they are emotionally balanced, and they are always able to read others well, understand others’ emotions, and they are always empathetic and caring. Psychologists are also even-keeled and steady at all times.
  • Because I’m nearly 23, I shouldn’t have problems with silly things like directions, technology, parallel parking, or running into everythings. 23-year-olds don’t turn the wrong way down one-ways in downtown Chicago. They have maps in the back of their heads. In less than a month of living in a new location, they should be able to name all of the streets in the area, and know all of the popular places to go. They are also always graceful (they’ve been walking for quite some time now, after all). 23-year-olds don’t find bruises all over their legs from running into things, and they definitely don’t drop or spill things. 23-year-olds have grown up with rapidly evolving technology and understand it all. Hand them the latest iPhone or five different remote controls and they’ll automatically know exactly how to work each one; they can also show you all of the shortcuts and little tricks.
  • Because of the cost of my schooling, I should always be fiscally responsible. A responsible person doesn’t ever spend money on frivolous things, like new clothes, restaurants, movies, and trips to the city. She rides her bike everywhere so as to save money on gas (and to save the environment). She works full-time so that she doesn’t have to take out loans unnecessarily, while at the same time always keeping up with her studies and acing every one of her classes (she is a doctoral student, after all). Her savvy ways, hard work, and many scholarships all allow her to finish her $100,00 program debt-free!
  • Because I’ve been known to have healthy habits, I must always maintain those without fail. A truly healthy person doesn’t ever eat junk food, and exercises on a regular basis. She eats 1200-1500 calories a day and maintains 115 pounds. She can rock any outfit she tries on and has achieved the envied “thigh-gap.” Love handles? What are those?
  • Because I’m attending a Christian school, I shouldn’t have problems with cussing, pride, impatience, lust, selfishness, envy, lying, greed – or basically sinning, in general. A good Christian girl just doesn’t struggle with such things. She has it all together. She spends an hour (sometimes two!) in the Word everyday. She has nearly half of it memorized from all of the time she’s spent studying and meditating. She prays for all of her friends, family members, coworkers, her church, the government, the poor and suffering, and the “nations” on a regular basis. If she has time and remembers, she might pray for herself last. She attends church every week and spends hours volunteering there, as well as in the community. She and Jesus are best buds. She can spend hours everyday just meditating on Him and delighting in His very name. Her daily prayer journal just gushes with her love for Him. She never doubts that He’s there and that He loves her.

Because she knows that Christ loves her, she loves others with the same unconditional love. She is always in a positive, even bubbly, mood. Working in customer service, she always has a bright-eyed smile on her face. Introverted though she may be, she loves every single person she encounters with a Christ-like love. Her 12-hour work shift and tired feet have no effect on her countenance or attitude. In fact, she remembers Christ’s death on the cross and rejoices in those blisters on her feet and the spilled food on her apron – it just means that she gets a small part in sharing Christ’s suffering.

  • Because I’m a Nebraskan, from a small town, a college graduate, a Chi Omega, attending a Christian school, and living in Wheaton, I should be married with a child on the way. A true Nebraskan/small town girl/college graduate/Chi Omega/Christian/Wheatie would have met her sweetheart in high school. She will have dated him all through college until they got engaged their senior year. Immediately following graduation, they will have had a beautiful wedding. Since they are both good, small-town Christians, they would never even consider using birth control. They will have settled on using natural family planning. Just as planned, they will have conceived the following year after she turned 22 and hope to have a big family in a big house in the suburbs.

Every person has his own bar. Like my standard, it should always be easily attainable. People who set their bar too high are only setting themselves up for failure and self-doubt.

More well-adjusted people, like you and I, realize our limits. We realize that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. We understand the power of Christ’s death on the cross and its implications for us. We’re content with who we are because we realize that Christ made us in His image; therefore, He didn’t make any mistakes in making us. We know that we are beautiful in His sight. People, like you and I, don’t care about society’s standards because we know that we are not to be in the world, not of the world.

We have lives marked with freedom and peace.

Giving your life to Christ doesn’t mean that all imperfections, impossibly high standards, and all pressures go away. Dying to yourself so that He can reign supreme in your life is a daily task. We need the constant reminder of who He is and what He’s done so that we don’t forget that we’ve been called according to His purpose – not ours – and that we no longer have to be slaves to sin.

Need that reminder today? Here:

Romans 10:9 – “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”

Romans 8:1-2 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 6:14 – “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It’s easy to forget.

vegan night.

June 21, 2013

A few of my friends here in Norfolk have recently (and by recently, I mean several months now) decided to switch to a vegan diet. Julie and Jocelyn are two friends that I really admire and have had the pleasure to get to know a bit better since I’ve been back in Norfolk the past year. They are two of the healthiest people I know, and also amazing athletes – in fact, they both just completed their first half Iron Man just a few weeks ago! Both of them also being doctors in town, I wanted to learn from them and hear about their “food journey.” Another friend of mine, Melissa, and I have both been on a similar food journey, although we have not “converted” to a strict vegan diet.

A few months ago, we all decided to have dinner together and watch “Forks Over Knives,” a food documentary, which I have previously discussed. Each time we get together, we make vegan food and watch a food documentary. I have since dubbed it “Vegan Night.”

The other night, we had our 2nd vegan night, of which hopefully there will be many more! Take a look at our delicious food!

Plate Full of GoodnessFood CollageIn case it all looks foreign to you, we ate a stuffed spaghetti squash, black bean and mango salad, a fruit salad, a leafy salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, and of course WINE. The black bean and mango salad was THE BEST, by the way. I’ll have to post the recipe once I get ahold of it. I don’t think I’d ever been so excited to eat a meal, or felt SO good afterward!

After our delicious meal, we watched “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” It’s a really interesting documentary about an Australian man, overweight and sick, who decides to drink strictly juice for 60 days. I don’t mean store-bought sugary juice, but push-fruit-and-vegetables-through-a-juicer-real-healthy juice. He’s basically drinking fruits and vegetables ONLY for 60 days. He not only loses 90+ pounds, but dramatically improves his health and adds years onto his life. If you’re interested, you can stream it for free on Netflix, watch the trailer here, or read testimonials, find recipes, and learn about the benefits here. The point is not to starve yourself, but to reboot your system, which has likely become addicted to processed, sugary, and nutrition-deprived food. Although I have yet to invest in a juicer, I’m strongly considering trying it our for a week to reboot my system!

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Thanks, friends, for a great time, great food, and great company! Let’s plan another night soon.

Food & Friends

welcome to 1930 in the sandhills.

June 7, 2013

Do you have a home away from home? That place where you can always find peace, where all of your cares are gone and you can just rest.

Cabin - OLDThis is mine. Okay, I don’t actually have any clue what year this photo was taken. Just go with it.

When my mom was 14 years old, her parents bought this little 3-room cabin. Every summer since that time, our family has taken trip after trip to this cabin. It’s my favorite place in the world. That one place where you can go, take 3 naps a day, eat way too much food, read books, play cards, tube down the creek, go for a hike, star gaze, bike, play, and rest and not feel a tinge of guilt about any of it!

Cabin Today

This is what it looks like today. Still a work on progress – still my favorite place in the world. During our most recent trip to “Hidden Paradise,” I decided to research a bit of the history of Long Pine, NE. I found a website with loads of old pictures that make me wish I was alive in the early 1900s. Some of them date back to the late 1800s! Take a peek.

Bathing SuitsIf Only...If only we still had this amusement park…and those sweet bathing suits!

Oh! For A ManDancingHiddenThis sign has since been replaced by this one:

Drive Like HellI think the new sign wins. Here are a few more modern ones I took from the town:

Water TowerMarketJailGas

Now do you understand what I mean? I’ll have to share more pictures sometime soon. This doesn’t even begin to cover it. At least now, you’ve gotten a glimpse of paradise!

How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person

June 6, 2013

This is a really powerful post from “Cross-Shaped Stuff” about our culture’s myths about what marriage should be. Married, dating, or single – it’s worth the read!


wedding 2
Photo Credit: Suni Danielle Photography

Today my wife Lindsay and I celebrate our two year anniversary. Two years ago, we tied the knot and took the plunge. Two years ago, the cutest girl in Indiana was taken off the market! Two years ago, we launched the beginning of the rest of our lives. Two years ago…

And after two years, there’s no hiding behind the dinner-and-a-movie façade of dating life any longer. I can’t buy enough flowers to conceal it. I can’t open enough doors. I can’t say enough “I love you’s.” She knows (and painfully, so do I) that she married the wrong person.

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