Recently, a team of 10 No Ordinary Women traveled across the globe to meet and collaborate with our Kenyan sisters in our partner organizations; the OASIS Women's Group and the Rainey Sewing Class, both located in Nakuru, Kenya, and our new partnership, Rehoboth Women's Ministry in Nairobi. We spent time listening to their stories, loving on their children, learning from them, and growing the bonds of Sisterhood. We also spent time learning and serving in the community, building an understanding of Kenyan culture and supporting local tourism. Our trip concluded with a period of rest and rejuvenation at the Masai Mara National Reserve where we were able to experience a safari and learn more about Kenya's fascinating variety of wildlife. We also had a NOW Product Photo Shoot on the Mara! There is no doubt that each woman on our team was moved in one way or another by this journey, but as you'll see, what touched each of our hearts was as different and unique as we are. We hope you enjoy and are moved as we share a little piece of our hearts with you here.
"Upon returning from Kenya, the most popular question from friends and family seems to be what my favorite part was. What a ridiculous question that is, I thought to myself every time without failure. After all, every part was my favorite part. I’ve been back for about a week now and the questions are dying down a bit but one specific moment lingers in my mind and I finally feel like I can answer it. Holding this woman’s hand.
On a trip riddled with excitement, heart break and total sensory overload every day, it’s easy to forget the details of every day. But in this moment, holding Jacqueline's hand, the world felt still. There were a few short moments where I had no regard to what was happening around us, and I felt safe, full and worthy of love. The unconditional kind. Her eyes seemed to hold the universe and her smile could brighten and entire room. I know she hadn’t had an easy run but her smile seemed as if it could heal all the pain. I think that the ability to smile through the struggles are one of the most beautiful survival mechanisms we can have as human beings. When you meet someone who’s smile can cause happiness as a chain reaction in others, the world becomes a brighter place. I feel in awe to have been able to stand alongside these change-makers who surely are, making this world bright. "
Hannah Clayton, No Ordinary Woman
"During my time at Kenya I experienced many emotions- sad moments, happy moments, and even confused moments. I really enjoyed getting to experience Kenya and seeing how they live and what people go through. It really made me sad when I saw people with no clothes or shoes or begging you for food. One day as we were heading back from the first day of safari we handed out our extra food to some kids along the road. They were so happy, they just grabbed the food without us even handing it to them it made my heart happy that they actually got some food. The safari was amazing, seeing their nature and the animals was just... WOW! At the end of the trip, it all really made me think about how we live versus them. It is so different and it’s so hard just to see them be happy the way they live because we complain so much. That made me be more grateful for things I have."
Olivia Cook, No Ordinary Woman
"The one word I can come up with to describe my experience with #nowdoesoasis2018 is phenomenal. It became a word that meant many things to us while we were on this trip. As we shared the poem Phenomenal Woman by May Angelou with the ladies of Oasis they seemed to latch onto it like a beautiful pair of earrings or a scarf that wraps around you & just suits you. The women of Oasis are phenomenal in their strength, their talent & their faith. Getting to sit with them, learn from them & hear their stories was truly an honor & humbling experience. The way they allowed us to love on them & their children was a blessing. The people of Kenya are phenomenal. Their hospitality & openness in sharing with us about their culture was next to none in all the traveling I've done. I made friendships both within our team & the people we met that I believe will last the rest of my life. Even in dealing with my own struggles since returning home, the love & faith the people we encountered continues to sustain me as I channel their faith & find my own oasis in the midst of the storm."
Carolyn Poling, No Ordinary Woman
"During my time in Kenya I experienced joy, sorrow, pain, confusion, excitement and anger. All of these feelings helped me see how God was shining through all of the people I met. Kenya was amazing, almost every person I saw was happy, and it just makes me feel ridiculous at how aggravated I get towards the world when my life is like heaven compared to theirs. It amazes me so much how they make the best of the worst. I just kept on thinking why do these people get this life and I don’t? Why do I have it so easy? What did I do to deserve an easy life? It’s very frustrating to me that people live this way. There were many times when grown ups and children would ask me “how is life being white?” Or they would say “I would do anything to have your hair. God didn’t privilege us with good hair like he did y’all.” And I never honestly knew exactly what to say because it’s not fair that they think that stuff. Our lives are not perfect but compared to theirs they are. Going to the schools and watching the children worship God gave me joy and inspiration throughout my trip. Seeing how the children sit outside of schools because they aren’t able to have an education really makes me feel guilty for always saying how much I hate school, like no school isn’t fun always but I’m so lucky to have a free education. One of the days at the safari we had left over food from our lunch and we decided to hold onto it to give to the children on the side of the road near where we were staying. When we handed it out they were all so excited to get the food and many of them were continuously saying “food, food, food” and then after we handed it out children would chase the van saying “give me, give me” and they were crying and it just really hurt me that we waste so much food when these children have to beg for some. Overall I can say I have learned a lot from Kenya and I’m very blessed to have had this opportunity and highly suggest it to others. Nakupenda Kenya."
Ivy Cook, No Ordinary Woman
" When I arrived to meet the oasis women in Nakuru, Kenya, I expected some really awkward conversations and interactions. I guess that's what I normally expect when I meet a new group of people. It's not anyone's fault; it's just weird to insert your life into someone else's life and it takes some time for both parties to except the change. With the Oasis Women there was no uncomfortable feeling or awkward moment. It was the epitome of embrace. It was love. I was home"
Lindsey Ebaugh, No Ordinary Woman
"Since my return from Kenya I’ve been holding deep feelings of appreciation for my experience and equally powerful feelings of helplessness and discontent based on some of what I saw. It’s difficult to return from a place where people’s lives look so different from my own and settle back into my routine. Many people that I met on my journey are struggling with things I’ve not personally experienced- hunger, abuse, poverty, difficulty accessing health care, difficulty accessing education….yet everyone I met was so kind, generous and filled with gratitude. I am conscious of the fact that I’ve met Americans who struggle with similar issues, but also strikingly aware of the difference between how these issues present themselves in my culture and how they present in Kenya. I have given myself full permission to exist in both spaces. I can be frustrated with the flaws in the health care and education systems in the United States. About people in my own country without access to clean water, hundreds of homeless people and an increase is deadly substance use in my little town, while also remaining vigilant about feeding hungry babies, adequate housing, clean water, giving kids access to the best education, helping women achieve independence, equality and financial stability on the other side of the globe. There’s room for both in my heart. The challenge will be figuring out what to do about it. I need guidance and discernment around how to be present here while also doing my best to help the people and the place I’ve grown to love immensely in such a short time. Asante, Kenya. Asante sana, people of Nakuru. For lighting a fire in me and teaching me so much about love and hope and the human race. Nakupenda. I love you."
Courtney Mayse, No Ordinary Woman
"When I think about our time in Kenya all I do is smile and wish I was there. It’s really hard to put the experience into words. I’m so thankful for all the wonderful women at Oasis and getting to be apart of their lives, from them teaching us how to make the jewelry, to singing and praying for us every morning, to getting to know their stories and what brought them to Oasis. It was so incredible to watch Irene be so proud of the sisterhood she had created for the women. I loved playing with all the little children and watching them smile because we were there, all they need is for people to love on them. I loved the Kenyan culture and how welcoming and loving everyone was. Even for the short amount of time we were there I feel like I have gained a new family across the world."
Abigail Williams, No Ordinary Woman
"The people of Kenya taught me about love—agape love—like none I had ever experienced before. These people who did not know us embraced us with smiles and songs, sincere hugs, and a happiness I had never seen. We didn't minister to them. They ministered to us. They taught us acceptance. Even though we looked different, they didn't treat us as outsiders. They were proud of their heritage and their customs. They shared with openness, trust and true vulnerability.
Everywhere we went, I loved learning about the country, seeing the animals, the terrain, the culture. They were eager to teach us their language; patient and kind when we made mistakes. They were intrigued by our skin, our hair. They wanted to touch it, braid it. Kenyans see differences as opportunities to learn, not to judge or ostracize. My hope is that, by sharing our Kenya experience, we can help to debunk the notion that being different is a bad thing. It was humbling to be among the minority in a foreign country; however, the people of Kenya did not treat us as outsiders. Our Oasis sisters, who had prayed for us even before we arrived, loved us as their own. Their children became our own during the time we were there. They celebrated our birthdays as though it was the biggest day of the year. Our drivers were magnificent. There we were, visitors in their country, and they bent over backward to serve us. They went above and beyond to ensure that we had a positive experience traveling in their land.
At the Mara, the children smiled and waved as they welcomed us. One child, who came up to the bus to get food, introduced himself to me. He was appreciative to receive an apple, the only thing I had to give, and thanked me. I am grateful for the experience we had with the Masai people as well. They danced for us, and the hospitality they showed made us feel comfortable at our home on the range. The beauty we saw in the circle of life on safari is something everyone should see. Animals cohabitated beautifully, just as the people we'd met, in true African spirit. You see, the overall theme in this country seems to be that, what will be, will be. Hakuna Matata. No worries.
Asante sana—thank you—sweet Kenya, for the karibu that is your nature."
Lisa Cook, No Ordinary Woman
For more information about how you can support No Ordinary Women and our sister organizations, the Oasis Women's Group, Rainey Sewing Class and Rehoboth Women's Ministry, visit our website at Noordinarywomen.org
The women of the NOW 2018 Summer Kenya Trip thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers, love, and support through this journey.