The Nine

Jessica Croom, Jamie Vonk, Jessica Chislett, Diane Mardavich

Mina Herrera (who somehow managed not to get in the picture above)

Kyle Flanner, Brian Jones, me, Brian Sanders

Before I get much into the stories about our trip, I'd like to take a moment and thank God for bringing together such an amazing team. These nine people, many of whom didn't know each other at all prior to the trip preparations, truly came together as a unified team. From the beginning we prayed consistently for unity in the team and, in spite of some forces that could have splintered us, God answered our prayers and knit us tightly together as a family. It was such a pleasure serving alongside and living life with each of these men and women. I was proud to be the team leader and couldn't have asked for a better bunch. They worked hard, complained little (if at all), submitted themselves to God and the team and loved one another and those we encountered generously. And they had a lot of fun doing it. I love them each.

Brian Jones, I miss you guy, but I'm so glad you went with us before making the move to the East Coast. I appreciate the fact that on paper we might butt heads, but in Christ we can respect one another's perspectives and share in His work. I've been so encouraged to see your vulnerability about some of your past wounds and about the bold steps you took prior to the trip to seek reconciliation in your life. You are a courageous man, a bold adventurer and a super talented photographer. Not too shabby on the recorder either ;) I'm convinced that as you remain open to Him, He is going to do some great things in you and through you.

Brian Sanders, you are full of surprises, my friend. You are constant, reliable, faithful...and prone to busting out the dance moves--even offering to teach me some! Too cool. I was glad you applied for the trip and had no doubt you'd be a great asset. Thanks for your humble spirit and your willingness to worship unashamed, to teach what God leads you to teach and to learn. And, I think I can speak for all of us--especially the men--that the term "fluffed your butt" will be forever etched in our minds :D

Diane, from a difficult start to this process through the lost passport, you have handled everything with such grace. It's been a pleasure to get to know you, and I think we were all inspired to see the genuine, deep friendships that you'd struck up with those in Kenya the last time you were there ('07) and were able to pick right back up. I could tell how blessed they were that you remembered the details of their stories and genuinely cared about them. You never hesitated for a moment to let any real or perceived barriers keep you from showing them Christ's love and relating to them as a genuine sister. Such a blessing to see. Thank you for pushing through the difficulties and sharing in this adventure with us. (Don't let me forget to loan you a stack of great foreign films, too ;)

Jamie, you crack me up. Not only do you have a wonderfully quirky sense of humor, but you are a great encourager. It was such a blessing to have your upbeat, game-for-anything attitude along on this trip. I've been excited by the work God's done in you in such a short time. Sorry we didn't get you baptized in the waters of Kenya, but I hope I'm there to see it when it does happen. Thank you for your faithfulness and your openness to do whatever needed to be done and go wherever we were directed. And, I have to say that the colorful chaos of the Noah's Ark story told in that crowded school room is not a memory that will soon be forgotten!

Jessica Chislett, you are a peaceful presence to those around you. That and your winning smile put people instantly at ease. I loved having you in my small group for a time and was so glad you joined us on this trip. To see you nestled in among the locals--the children, in particular--warmed my heart and I could see it on your face when God allowed you to be burdened for a person or situation. Your gift of mercy is a beautiful thing, as is your unique perspective on the world. Thank you for being willing to be Christ to anyone. You never let anything stand in the way of loving people in your gentle, sincere way. It's such a blessing to see.

Jessica Croom, after some initial uncertainty about the trip and where God was leading you, it was exciting to see you jump in there and say, essentially, I have my own sense of where God might be leading me, but I feel like I'm supposed to be a part of this. Then, to see you truly submit yourself to God's leading, pour yourself wholeheartedly into the work of the trip and to see your love for the Pokot blossom and to have you make the Uganda connnection, well...it was a beautiful thing. Thanks for being obedient. You were a blessing (and I do have a Uganda map for you ;).

Kyle, you're nuts. From a worldy perspective anyway. I am still trusting God to complete the healing that He began in you, but it was a huge step of faith and obedience to go on this trip and not allow your heart condition to affect the condition of your heart, if you will. You're a psalmist in the Temple of the Most High God, my brother, and your faith and knowledge of the word are an encouragement. Thank you for submitting when it was called for and taking leadership when needed. I continue to lift you up and look forward to seeing what God will do with your story.

Mina, you are an inspiration. Though quiet by nature, you are a warrior. You went to Kenya last year, found your burden for these people grew and returned this year to continue the work and the relationships you'd begun. Your prayers covered this group and to see you come to a crossroads, one that could have understandably had you going in a different direction, then to truly trust God with the most valuable people in your life, your family, was so encouraging. Thank you for following God even when it's tough and for being such a great example. I can't wait to see what He has next for you, maybe even in Africa!

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