Learning in Africa

 

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I am home from my trip to Kenya, Africa. It was an amazing experience to be in Kenya; the food, the people, and the land.

I did not meet my team until JFK in New York. Well, three of my my four team members. I met my first team member on my second flight to NYC. I found my seat and my first team member in my row on my flight. We were able to talk on our way from Boston to NYC. Then we would meet the next two members and pray our last two members would make our flight to Africa. God had every detail planned to the minute.

The team Kenya, our first meeting, Live in Love.

The team Kenya, our first meeting, Live in Love.

My team members was made up of six (including me) American women. This would make for an interesting trip. I was the only married/mother of the group. I feel though I am very young at heart. I was sought out a few times by single Kenyan men. This was amusing to me as there were five other beautiful  single American women and I was the “old” married lady in the group.

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Africa was life changing. There are only five other women in the world, who truly understand what we went through over there. We can try to explain it to our friends and family, but these women will always be my “sisters from another mister.”

The most life changing moment came when I was able to teach in the classroom of a Kenyan school. God brought the opportunity for this teacher (really three teachers) to teach in their schools as guests.

The first lesson, I was literally, given a book, asked to teach out of it. I stood in front of the class and quietly got it together.  I am a teacher that taught over the top, rowdy, opinion giving 7th grade students. In Kenya, the students are respectful to the point of not engaging with you. I stood up there and expected them to engage with me like American students. I being a counselor as well, stood in uncomfortable silence, and waited, until the students finally caught on to my style of teaching.

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The problem was I didn’t understand the way Kenya teachers taught. The teachers taught, the kids listened. If the kids were disresptecful, they were displined. Think corpal punishment.

We were asked to teach the next day.  I began to ask more questions. I wanted a clad picture of what I could teach. I found out I could teach anything including the bible. Again, very different from American schools. I prepared for a second day,which went much better because I understood, what they expected out of me. I was uncomfortable. My ideas of teaching had to be pushed out the door. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the students being so respectful that they didn’t express anything. I liked my rowdy, opinion giving 7th grade students.

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But then I began to understand the plight in this country. The unemployment, the jobs, and the low income. All around me was poverty. Not poverty like we know it. The gut wrenching, no pants wearing, poverty. The kind of poverty you see on T.V, and switch the channel because you are uncomfortable. The kind that smacked you in the face where ever you went.  I saw children crying out of hunger and ignored because they only ate once a day that was the expectation. Their hunger was normal. That was the day I broke down. I saw my own children in those precious faces and my heart cried out as a mother. I didn’t understand it. I gave the little boy an orange that he struggled to eat because it seemed he had never had one. I taught him how to eat it. He was about seven years old. I knew in that moment that was a hunger that he had known more than once and that my moment  of relieving him of that hunger was only that, a moment. I cried the most that day. After that, I had to pray that I could sustain the rest of the trip. Which was another three days. God was good. He allowed me to see that He cared far more for these children than I did. His heart broke for their physical hunger, but He cared more about their spirtual hunger. The next few days, I played and loved on those kids.

Racing the kids

Racing the kids

I will return to Kenya soon. I will see those beautiful faces again. I want to see what happens to them and how they grow. I want to take Maddie, who desperately wants to minister to the people as well. I learned much more that I will share later. Thank you for those who supported me. Please continue praying for what is happening over there. Pray for the people are experiencing suffering and loss.  Continue to pray for Live in Love as they  continue on with their ministry.

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Father’s Day

I chronicle my life on this blog. I often get personal on my life, but don’t include too much of my extended or even my kids.  My mother can kill me once I get back in the country. This post is dedicated to my grandfather.

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This Father’s Day started out like any other. My husband got his gifts. We ate breakfast and prepared to go to my grandfather’s house for lunch. This is our tradition. I am lucky that at 32 almost 33 that I still have both of my grandfathers living. My daughter’s have the privilege of having relationships with them. We all have a special relationship with my mother’s father. Let me start at the beginning.

I moved to the great state of Illinois at the ripe old age of 12. We moved back to my mother’s home state from North Carolina to be closer to her side of the family. My parents had divorced and my father lived in Georgia at the  time. I remember my uncle and grandfather coming to pack up the trucks and moved back  us “home”.  I won’t lie, I didn’t want to move. What 12-year-old does? On top it, I was starting middle school. The worst two years of my life, well, at that time. Yet, it was a blessing in disguise. I had a relationship with my grandparents, but it would blossom into a full-grown close relationship. We would stay at their house when my mother had to work. We would eat at their house all the time. I have many fond memories of them. I remember taking care of my grandfather when he had heart issues. My dad lived far away. He was present but not physically , he tried but couldn’t be. My grandfather was and I learned so much from him.  My grandfather was my “ideal” guy. He was kind, loving and had a short fuse.

We found out a few weeks that his cancer has come back. It is fast growing and in multiple parts of his body. On our way over to his house, I realized that this could be my last Father’s day with him. The man who I adored and loved was not going to live forever.  We all know that in our hearts of heart. We all know that we are all going to die and if we love Jesus, we will be in heaven. I know that he does and that brings me comfort.

We had made him a video of pictures celebrating his life for Father’s day. My husband being ever so wise had kept pictures on our computer of him from when he was young. As he watched, he began to cry, actually sob. There are very few times I have actually seen this happen. I had to walk out of the room. That is when I realized, he realized, that this time, we might not get next year.  After tears and unspoken words by the family , we celebrated the rest of the day.

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At the end, we took pictures of the kids with grandpa. My husband being ever so wise, took just one of the two of us. Something that I could keep forever and remember.  There are no words to describe this man I love so much. It is inadequate and would come close express the depth of love I have for him.

Proverbs 16:31  “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

Africa…Here I come?!

 

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In less than a week, I leave for Kenya, Africa. I am scared, excited and any other adjective that would describe sheer panic. I will have limited access to my cell phone, my family and really anything that connects me to the my world. Not the outside world because I will be traveling beyond my comfort. Beyond quick and easy access to cell service, the usage of my cell phone without the cost being sky high and my family.

My utter dependence is on God.

My comfort zone is about to be shaken to the core and I love it. Yes, you heard correctly, I love it.

I don’t want to live a life that is comfortable. Let me explain.

In America, most of us live in comfortable situations. Comfortable meaning that we have clean water, food, clothes and shelter. The basics. We may not have all that we want. Around the world the issues of malnutrition, clean water and illness plague many countries.  Poverty looks very different in many parts of the world.

Poverty does exist in America. I have seen many hungry faces at meal sites that hurt my heart. I have seen it kids be truly hungry and fearing summer break because they won’t have access to food.  We have homeless that need our help. We have families in true need.

What do you do about it?  Do we turn away and ignore the problem? Give our checks and walk away?  Do one time mission trips in the U.S.A and think we are good?

What about around the world? It’s easy to give but much harder to go.  It was not easy to ask for money, to accept help, and to give up time with my children. Yet, God didn’t say it would be easy. God didn’t say I could give him excuses. I said “Here I am God, send me.”  He didn’t say that I could choose the time. He gave me the time, the money and the opportunity. He gave the husband that would send me with a smile on his face and willing to take care of our beautiful children. (Ages 3 & 5).

“Here I am Lord, Send me.”

I told my five-year old about my trip to Africa. I wanted her to know that I wasn’t leaving her to go on vacation without her. We began the talk about Africa.

She asked ” Mommy, what are you going to do there?”

I thought just for a moment. ” Maddie, I am going to a mommy for a few days to  children that don’t have one. Can they borrow me?”

Her answer: “Yes, make sure you love on them. Tell them I said hi.”

She gets it. She’s five. Do you?

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift has  received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it’s various forms.”  1 Peter 4:9-10

Why am I running the Chicago Marathon?

Why am I a marathoner?  Why did I choose this marathon? This marathon is awesome! This is my second time running the Chicago Marathon. I loved running downtown with all the people cheering me on. It was amazing to see everyone holding signs for their loved ones. My mom and sister came with me that trip and for moral support.  I would wait to see them  at certain mile markers and they would cheer me on. My favorite part was turning the curve of the marathon to see my mom and sister waiting at the finish line. It gave me that extra speed to finish. I loved it.

My finish in 2012.

My finish in 2012.

This time the marathon is set up a little differently. The last time I ran it  all I had to do was sign up in time. This time there was a lottery system in place. My husband, cousin and I wanted to run it together. I knew there was no way all three of us would get chosen. My husband and I decided on the charity route. We are raising money for Oasis for Kenyan Orphans. This organization has a special place in my heart because I am going to Africa this summer to Kenya to work with orphans. Not with Oasis but with another ministry. I am excited for my trip to Kenya.

Before a run in my Oasis for Orphans shirt :)

Before a run in my Oasis for Orphans shirt 🙂

On my long runs or short runs, I pray for the orphans I am raising money to help. This is so close to my heart that at times it feels like it can break in two for these children in orphanages. This is the first marathon I have done for charity. I am hoping it won’t be my last.

Who is Oasis for Orphans? (http://www.oasisfororphans.org/about-oasis/mission-vision-strategy/)

The Oasis Mission:

Oasis for Orphans exists to rescue orphaned and vulnerable children in Kenya and to develop them physically, spiritually, economically, and socially, enabling these children to one day be contributing members of their community and future leaders in their country.

The Oasis Vision:

We see a day when thousands of vulnerable children, neglected by society, are connected to loving sponsors and rescued into homes where they will be developed holistically, restoring hope to the children and the communities where they live.

The Oasis Strategy:

In order to accomplish our mission, we must excel in the following four areas:

  • Develop Committed Relationships: Two key relationships must be established and fostered to provide love and security to an orphaned child – the sponsor/child relationship and the guardian/child relationship. A committed relationship between a child and sponsor can be transformational for both parties.  A devoted guardian provides security for the orphan’s future.
  • Implement a Holistic Development Plan: Rescuing children is not enough. Oasis’ success will be measured by our ability to develop the child into a contributing member of their community.  This will not happen without being intentional about the process of development.  The Oasis development plan is holistic meaning that it grows the child in four key areas – physically, spiritually, economically and socially.
  • Maintain a Sound Financial System: Oasis is committed to fundraising in order to provide for the needs of orphaned children and stewarding those resources responsibly both in America and Kenya.
  • Form Strategic International Partnerships: To accomplish our goal of rescuing and developing children in Kenya, without creating an unhealthy dependence, we must be prepared to establish, grow, and release partnerships as they become self-sufficient.  Oasis is committed to partnering with Kenyan leaders and Kenyan staff members who will lead and manage the complete care of the orphaned child.

Would you be willing to be support me?  Would you be willing to help these orphans?

Three ways to give:

1. Prayerfully consider giving toward my goal at my FirstGiving Page: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jen-schrempf-2/bank-of-america-chicago-marathon-2014

2. Prayer. Please pray for these orphans and for all orphans around the world.

3. Lastly, encouraging me to continue on training for my race.

And if you spend yourself on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
Then your light will rise in the darkness
and your night will become like midday.
The Lord will guide you always,
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land,
And will strengthen your bones;
You will be like a well-watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters never fail.
– Isaiah 58:10-11

 

M & M’s : Marathons & Monday’s update

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I have really begun the hardcore training.  Work is winding down for the summer and more time is being devoted to my running. It is also becoming nicer outside. Well, it’s really hot. This week was my first “long” run Sunday. I was suppose to get up early and run before brunch with friends. My husband trying to be sweet woke me up an hour late. I decided that I would run later in the day around dinner time to my grandparents. My husband and kids would be meet me there an hour later.

I began the run around 5:00 in the afternoon. It was a balmy 88 degrees outside.  I started off too fast and told myself to slow down. I knew that if I didn’t then I would die out in the last phase in the run. I didn’t slow down. Can you guess what happened? I began to wear out before I should have and my time began to slow down. I was praying that my husband would be early with the kids and see my poor self running and pick  me up.

The Lord was good because none of those things happened. I had to work my way through the run. I had to mentally prepare myself . I began to think about the last two marathons. How hard it was to finish well.  Today, I felt the mental preparation begin. I believe that in marathon training mental awareness and preparedness is as important as being physically prepared.

How do you mentally prepare for a marathon?

 

5 ways to help this working mom…

I had the privilege of staying home with my children for three years. I loved every aspect of that season of my life. I loved the play dates, lunch dates,  dates with my girls and being able to set my schedule (under the demand of my kids) as needed. I could make doctors appointments in the middle of the day , run during nap time on my treadmill  or stay in my yoga pants all day long.  This sounds like a rosy picture, but I also had the demands of the housework, laundry, and a husband. I had bad days, where screaming babies were the norm.  Yet, looking back, I would not have changed any of those moments for the world.

Recently, I have blogged about going back to the work and the feeling that goes with it. The struggle of the balancing act.  The how to’s of relationships with my husband, children, church, outside obligations of work and my girlfriends.

After a slight melt down with a friend on the phone and the questions was asked : “How can I support you? How can we hang out now?” My answer was “I don’t know”.

I had felt disconnected. I had this picture in my mind of  all my friends getting together having all these play dates, lunch dates and social lives without me. Forgetting I even existed. Your mind can paint pictures that reality does not support. Pity party of one please. Ugh, extremely self-serving and frankly not my style.

I began to really ponder the question posed by my friend.  How could she help me? How could we still be friends? Then I came up with my list of “helps” that I thought I would share with the rest of the blogging world.

Here is my list of 5 things that might help a working mom, especially one that might need a nudge to get out.

1.  Invite a working mom on a play date on a day and time she can do it. This might take planning and work. I know this may just be me, but I felt like no one wanted me around the minute I started working.

2. Be interested in the struggles of the working mom. I have one working mom friend.  One. It’s hard. I  don’t feel as though I relate to anyone.

3. Couples night. We have a two household income. This means both of us works. We never see our friends, because I used to set those up. I have had not one friend ask us for a night out.

4. Judgment free zone. Working mom’s struggle with lots of different things. I believe the divide between working moms and stay at home moms is the perception of judgement. People judge no matter what choice you make. “Oh you work. I could never do that!” or “Oh, you stay at home, it must be nice not to have to shower.” I have actually heard both. Yet, nothing drives me more batty than judging someone on the basis of their  choices.

5.  Calling your good friend and asking what they need. I can’t do last-minute anymore. Everything in my life takes planning.  But sometimes, especially if you are good friends, you can call them to make sure everything is okay. Maybe some coffee on a Saturday morning with kids running around is just what a working moms need or just calling their husband to set up a blind date with your girlfriends.

This survival guide for back to work moms is not for everyone. Really this is to help others understand that we all have different situations. These tips can be applied to anything. This is a list I came up with to help me deal with how to allow my friends to help me. This list is things I pray on to help me work through, when feelings of insecurities creep up. This is also a list I wish I had known to show support to working moms, while I stayed at home.

What other tips could other working moms add?

 

M & M’s

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This is after Sunday’s run. I was hot and sweaty, not looking beautiful in the least. This is real training.

” The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to be afraid of making one” L. Ron Hubbard 

Training is one of those endurances in my life that I find particularly difficult is finding time. I am “part-time” teacher that actually works full-time. I am finding that I have every excuse in the book not to run. Today, Sunday, I made the choice to begin my run weeks on a Sunday instead of a Monday. I have also made the choice to get up early to run in the morning. I have tried this a thousand times before with no luck. This time I have to make it work. I know that the strength of the Lord will help me to get through the beginning torture of the morning run.

I went out for my new routine Sunday run and clocked a three-mile run this morning. It rocked. I felt great and my time was just a tad slower than normal.  I am getting back to the rhythm of my pace and feeling that my body is strong. I feel as though I could conquer the world, but know that I will only be able to do this with God by my side.

I am hoping my new routine takes shape quickly. Kenya is coming up quickly. I want my body in tip-top shape, before I venture to Kenya for ten days. Then we will be traveling to Dallas for about a week.

Any advice for improving times for a marathon?

Who am I?

Unknown-1Hello, My name is... (click here for a music video)

“Hello, my name is defeat. I know you recognize me. Just when you think you can win, I’ll drag you right back down again. Til you’ve lost all belief”   is pouring through my head this week. This song, this moment of truth. This song, Hello, My Name,is by Matthew West.  

“Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies And I have believed them for the very last time.”

” Hello, my name is….”

What pours in my head is not the next line in the song.  I wonder, how many of us are the same and why? (If you haven’t heard the song, take the time to watch the video.) We like a song like this. It’s beautiful. This should reflect that defeat and the other things that named are lies.

“Hello,  my name is…”

Hurt

Control Freak

my past

anxiety

imperfect

people pleaser

Never good enough for the world.

This is what the world wants me to believe that  I am. The world wants me to buy into the defeat, regret and being defined by my past.

“Hello, my name is…”

What is my name? Who do I belong to? Who has my heart?

“Hello, my name is…”

 Child of the one true King. I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free. “Amazing Grace” is the song I sing.”

Who am I? I am the child of the one true kind, whom  I serve. My identity comes from the Him and nothing else. On the really bad days, I turn up the volume, sing this with all my heart that reaches the heavens and prays that on that bad day, my disbelief is taken from me. I then know my what my true name is.

M&M’s

Last week,  I  was supposed to start my training for the upcoming marathon season. As a seasoned runner,  I had to listen to my body. I have issues with my body that are unexplainable in this moment. I have the privilege of health care and am able to go to specialist to figure out what is wrong with my stomach. The outcome is unsure but I will hopefully know soon.

This is a hard lesson for many runners. Whether you have been running for 20 years, 10 years,  2 years or 10 minutes. Listening to your body is the most important aspect to training.

My thought process is : ” I can run through anything.” In my heart I know,  I can’t. I am unable. I have had multiple injuries to let me know otherwise.

This week’s update is a bummer. I have restarted my training with an easy week this week. I know that I am able to complete the Chi-town marathon. I just need to have more faith in the process of healing.

Here is my  M & M update this week. I am hoping next week for a better report.

Advice? Tips?

 

Stuck

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I just finished a documentary entitled Stuck. This documentary is based on families trying to adopt children internationally. I watched as families struggled to get their children home from various countries. It was heartbreaking to watch.  It was heartbreaking to watch even more because I know a family with a daughter that is stuck.

Ryan and Katie Ganshert have been waiting to bring their daughter home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has been legally adopted since July. They closed the doors on the “exit permits” in September.  They can’t bring her home. She needs the exit permit to get home to the United States.  They were suppose to be grandfathered “in” to get this “exit permit”, but that hasn’t happened yet.  They are one of several  hundred families going through this crisis right now.

I have sent letters to everyone from local government officials to national government officials in my state. They are turning their backs on my friends. I received a letter, stating, I could not advocate on behalf of my dear friends.  I am and will continue until this child and all other stuck children come home.

How can you help?

1. Mindset: not everyone agrees with international adoption. People will cry “What about our children in the United States?” I agree. We have needy children everywhere. God has placed orphans on the hearts of Christians everywhere.  It’s not your place or your choice to judge on where people choose to adopt from, but as a Christian is your duty to act on behalf for orphans.  Sorry, that was bold. Let me say it a different way: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Orphans are everywhere.

2. Prayer: God can move mountains and governments. We need to pray for a movement. A movement that will bring these children home. Not in orphanages alone and unloved. Not in orphanages where they are under staffed and underfed. No one wants these children in some of these countries, yet they are being denied to loving homes in the United States.

3. Do something: Write a letter, sign a petition, write a blog post. Just do something. The more noise that is made the more action the United State government will be required to take.   Don’t know where to start? Start here:  https://bothendsburning.org/help-out/sign-the-petition/)

4. Still unconvinced? Watch the documentary Stuck.( http://buy.stuckdocumentary.com ) After watching this documentary, I was more convicted than ever to write a blog about my friends and their situation. I felt that it was my duty as a Christian and as their friend to speak out even more.

Don’t allow one more day go by and these children remain stuck.

” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

 

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