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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kenya Missions Trip

Dear friends and family,

This summer I plan to go on a mission trip to an orphanage in Kenya. Kenya Matters is a non-profit organization based in Karai, Kenya. It focuses its mission on providing material, emotional, and spiritual support for orphan children, while building relationships between African families and those of volunteers and donors.

We have a deal in our family; my parents decided that when we were selecting our next post, whatever child was entering their junior year would have first choice on destination. Of course this in no way guaranteed we would move there, but it still provided a decent chance. Ever since I became aware of this choice, I have had my heart set on Africa. I am not entirely sure why this has been the case, but Africa has always intrigued me. But, two years and one move later, we are obviously not in Africa. Not even close. Despite that, I still feel drawn to Kenya and long to be involved with this orphanage in some way.

I first heard about Kenya Matters from my good friend, Anna Buist. Her dad currently serves as President of the Kenya Matters board, so they have been greatly involved with the organization for several years. Anna has visited Kenya many times, and always returns with exciting stories to share with me. Through Anna I have been able to interact with Kenya Matters while living overseas in several ways: writing pen pal letters to a few of the girls, watching other mission groups visit and share their experiences, and more. But I would love to be more involved and have the opportunity to visit the kids personally. I have always enjoyed children, and I feel like my passion for them would grow as I spend time with the Kenyan kids.

I have been thinking and praying about going on this trip for a long time now. It’s been difficult to coordinate flights and timing from Taiwan, but everything is finally coming together. So, this June I will be setting out on a 10 day trip to Kenya. I will be meeting up with my friend, Anna, and her dad. The orphanage lies just two hours outside of Nairobi, where we will be spending the majority of our time. We will be keeping ourselves busy interacting with the kids and helping out in the community. Most of our time will be spent socializing with the kids, helping with school, and any other miscellaneous jobs around the safe house.

Please consider supporting my team and I, in both prayer and in finances. I must raise approximately $2,000 to cover flights, room, and board. Any additional money will be donated to Kenya Matters. Your thoughts and prayers would be greatly appreciated. You can follow my trip, and view any updates leading up to it, by viewing this family blog. 

You can contribute by visiting my donation page on the Kenya Matters website: http://www.kenyamatters.org/elena2kenya/, or by writing a check to the address below. Please make checks out to Kenya Matters, and include a slip of paper with my name.

Thank you for your support,
Elena



Kenya Matters
Box 23
Hudsonville MI 49428

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tomb Sweeping Day

Tomb Sweeping weekend (Quingming Day) was April 2-5.  Here in Taiwan, it is always celebrated on April 5 to commemorate the day Chaing Kai-shek.  This is an important family and religious holiday here in Taiwan.  The embassy was closed for 2 days which gave us some time to explore a cemetery near our house.  
Once a week, Chad rides his bike over the mountain to get from a weekly clinic back home.  Following a gps app., he found a trail that wound through a cemetery.  Old steps wind up the mountain with paths through the cemetery on either side.  We enjoy wandering our way through the overgrow grave sites, looking at the tiles and cemetery stones.  We had wondered if the cemetery was forgotten, but also knew that the Taiwanese do not visit cemeteries as we do in America.  They believe the ghosts of the dead are wandering around and they do not wish to disturb them.  
Tomb Sweeping weekend is the one time of the year the Taiwanese visit the graves.  They clean them up, offer food offerings, burn sacrifices, place fake paper money around the grave to send to their needy dead relatives and pray to their ancestors.  
I wanted to see if anything was going on in our cemetery over the weekend.  I was surprised at how busy it was.  Many tombs were cleaned.  Families were walking up the steps or gathered around a tomb.  Here are some photos to help you understand.

Paper money is placed around the tomb, weighted with rocks.  This will provide for the ancestors in their after-life.

Paper money around these two tombs.

Families walking up the steps, carrying bags of food to leave as offerings.

A family gathered around a tomb burning a sacrifice.

Incense that has been burned on a tomb.

Flowers left at a tomb.

This was a surprise that took my breath away!  A tomb with a cross.  Amongst all the tombs with idols and sacrifices, this tomb was neat and tidy for the family remembered their dead, but there were no offerings or signs of paper money.