Photo by Tony Cece

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday 7/29

Today, we attended morning worship at Pentecostal Church One Faith, a few miles away from the Into Abbas Arms (IAA) compound. Before going, we were told that the service would last about 3 and a half hours, which is much longer than most of us are accustomed. However, the time seemed to fly by. We worshipped with a lively congregation, sang along with many songs, and listened intently to the vibrant expository preaching. The congregation, the pastor, and the visiting bishop welcomed us with open arms, making the environment warm and friendly. Though we couldn’t understand the words to most of the praise songs (they sang in the tribal tongue of Kikuyu), we jumped and clapped along with the rest of the congregation as they praised the Lord. “I really loved their spirit.” “Singing songs in two languages, back and forth, felt like the brothers and sisters in Christ that we are.”
The rest of the evening was somewhat relaxing. We spent our free time on the playground with the children of the orphanage. The games included soccer, volleyball, swinging, tag, and duck duck goose. Two of our our team members were schooled in soccer by a few small boys who were obviously fans of the sport. It is good for us all to get some exercise and interact with this lively bunch. Nine members of the group spent an hour in class for this Internship experience discussing Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and requirements for the completion of the course.
As for the rest of the evening, we will be preparing for the pastor’s conference tomorrow.   There is a lot of last minute coordinating that needs to be done, including meals, conference room set-up, finishing touches to the presentations, and preparation for small groups. We have a busy week ahead of us with a long travel day on Friday. I believe everyone has prepared well for the work we have left.

Saturday 7/28

Excitement permeated the air as our trauma team prepared to present our first official conference to approximately twenty-five Doctors, Psychologists, Social Workers, Nurses, Mental Health Workers and Administrators from in and around the community. Leaders and team members presented on Child Trauma, Modified Sand Tray, Compassion Fatigue, Critical Incidents and Implications for Medical Providers and Relaxation Techniques.
We presented our conference inside the Into Abba's Arms (IAA) chapel where we first introduced ourselves and in turn were introduced to these local professionals and the type of work in which they are involved. Several were working within the community as Mental Health Workers servicing populations such as unwed mothers, rape and incest victims, mothers living with HIV/Aids, teenage girls needing empowerment, abandoned children and children suffering from severe domestic violence.
It was clear very early during our first presentation, focusing on Child Trauma, that this community was filled with frustration and was extremely receptive to the issues surrounding child trauma; particularly PTSD symptoms, symptoms children exhibit during and after trauma and the treatment of children who have been traumatized. Heads nodded vigorously in agreement as we discussed the effects, of trauma in girls, boys and the difficulties this might cause within the family dynamic and school atmosphere. After a short break for "Kenya Tea" our teams broke into small group with approximately four team member per five professionals and discussed some of the issues these professionals are faced with on a daily basis. Discussions once again yielded stories of rampant physical and sexual abuse as well as pervasive domestic violence in which some workers feared for their client's lives.  
During the second half of the day theses professionals were elated as we discussed the effects of trauma on the brain. Heads nodded once again and it was quite clear that connections were being made about the information they were receiving and the clients they are seeing. We followed with treatment techniques for children in trauma, and in a very poignant moment a women asked, "How do you treat the child who is taken out of the home because of abuse and the father says he will not do it again and the child is put back in the do you get this child to open up, how do you help this child please?" The question was sobering; summing up a very common problem within this community. We followed this question by teaching the Modify Sand Tray Technique using stones to teach these administrators a rather simple but extremely effective way to get children and adults to talk about their trauma without fear and added traumatization. The session was incredible. The stones were used first to allow the professionals to tell their own stories and then in turn facilitate the technique on members of the trauma team to gain some experiential knowledge and practice. They were quick to note how helpful they believed this technique would be with the children they work with regularly.
What precious time remained was used discussing Compassion Fatigue and relaxation strategies they could use to help keep themselves both mentally and physically healthy in the midst of working in such a high risk/stressful environment. As a way to gauge their current stress level we asked them to rate their current stress level regarding their job by giving it a number between 1-10. We then continued to teach breathing exercise, muscle relaxation, a projective "safe place" exercise and Emotional Freedom Technique; a technique in which relaxation is achieved by tapping parts of the body and doing exercises that integrate right and left parts of the brain.  After the presentation they were once again asked to rate their stress level. EVERYONE who answered reported an extreme decrease in their stress level.
Once again we were politely beckoned to return and do more presentations within their individual communities. One woman exclaimed, "There is so much need for this here, please return." 

Friday 7/27

Today our team had a fun and relaxing day, leaving the countryside compound to explore the treasures within this region of Kenya. One group from our team ventured out to a national park in Naivasha; situated on a lake-locked island, the island contains a number of diverse species of animals. After taking a boat ride from the town to the island, our colleagues gazed upon impalas, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, and giraffes among 70 foot tall Acacia trees. All visitors received a photograph with a giraffe. One person from our team remarked, “Standing there next to that giraffe, I felt so thankful that God gave me this opportunity. I never thought I’d be taking a picture standing next to a giraffe.”
The rest of our team make the hour and a half venture into the capital city of Nairobi. Some left to go spend time with friends in town while many spent most of the day at the Village Market, where we explored specialty shops and had lunch in the international food court. On the top level of the mall stood the Masai Market, a weekly flee market with local vendors selling a variety of items that were uniquely Kenyan. We found souvenirs and (bargain but finely made) gifts for friends and loved ones back home that are uniquely Kenyan. Some of us left “base camp” at the market and ventured into downtown Nairobi, which felt similar to Times Square in New York City. We visited the National Museum, where we viewed archeological artifacts such as the 18 million year old skeleton discovered by Richard Leaky at Turkana Lake. The life of the city seemed a world apart from our modest dwelling in the Kenyan highlands.
Upon returning to the Into Abbas Arms (IAA) compound in the evening, we conversed about our differing experiences, each person sharing a unique story. As a part of our training in Trauma Studies we learned the importance of self-care. If we fail to take care of ourselves, then we will fail to care for others as the need arises. The most important thing about this day was that we got to take care of ourselves and unwind.  There was no strict schedule to keep and there was no one in need of council. Simply being able to enjoy the day helped recharge the team and prepare us for another week of intense service to the community.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thursday 7/26

Once again our trauma team gathered together to discuss the days events filled with stories of struggle, incredible faith and joy. Our teams once again split into four teams and set out to a different area than they had previously gone. In other words, the team that went to the IDP camp yesterday now headed to the community and the team that went into the community now headed for a local school etc...
The team  remained at IAA (Into Abba's Arms) presented an all day seminar on Treating Sexual Trauma; Understanding Sexual Trauma Effects and the Healing Process;and Child Trauma for the staff, teachers and administrators of the IAA orphanage. While discussing child trauma the team taught a technique in which you use stones to help children tell their story. This technique is what is being termed ' Modified Sand Tray. Their reaction was priceless and what we found was that the techniques truly allowed for us to break down some of the communication barriers. Throughout the seminar team members repeatedly broke into small groups to discuss current and past observations about the orphaned children in their care and how they might further recognize the symptoms of sexual abuse. The information was very well received and in one case a young woman seemed to recognize the some of the effects of her own abuse as she reached out to one our teem members for additional help.
Our time at the local schools had come to an end so the team that headed out into the community surrounding IAA  was much larger and their was a shared feeling of "casting a wider net" in our abilities to reach more people. The description once again reported was "they are so grateful, so grateful for all that IAA for donations of water." As members of the team continued to speak with local families we found that many women are bound with their homes, confined by their struggles and separated by their tradition which has not allowed for them to fellowship with members outside of family. The team was hopeful as invites to the upcoming women's conference our team will be presenting were accepted. Our hope is to bring these women together to introduce the idea that they have such a powerful source of support within themselves. 
Some of our most powerful stories once again came the IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps, where stories of the ravaging effects of domestic violence, sexual trauma, incest and lack of basic needs continued. Our teams reported that amidst extreme deprivation, lack of food, water and safety; these people show such pride in all that they do and in the little that they have. One member reported, "I makes me think about all those things I have, things that people here have never even heard just makes me look at my life completely differently...I'm forever changed." Another team member stated she felt disillusioned and saddened by the comment from an IDP inhabitant. "God has forgotten us." Our team member expressed the heartache to know that 522 families, over 1500 people are limited to a sparse two acres of land, all the while surrounded by a lush forrest they are not permitted to trespass or to plant crops to feed themselves.
As a team, we are continuously amazed by the amount of faith and hope these people display. They are truly thankful for the little they have and praise the Lord in every situation. In the finality of the day one team member poignantly stated, "In the midst of their suffering, they are brought back to the cross and their hope is sustained." 

Wednesday 7/25

On our third day of service in the surrounding community, we continued the same activities, shifting groups so that most everyone served somewhere new. One group was positioned at each post: staff training at the IAA compound, meeting at homes near our compound, counseling in the IDP camps, and student and faculty training at a nearby high school.
My group and I spent our day at St. Christopher’s Catholic High School working with students in forms III & IV (grade 11 & 12) and teachers from all grade levels. The team was energized as we lead the students through a lecture on self-esteem and two practical exercises. This included drawing a self-portrait using both positive and negative adjectives and writing 10-year goals on the other side of the page. We asked the students to circle those self-descriptions that would help them reach their goals (make it to the other side of the page) and cross out those that would hinder them.   The students also created a “Shield” with the shape of one used by a warrior in battle. The shield contained descriptions of their most cherished values and experiences, serving as protection against an attack on self-worth.
The instructors at St. Christopher’s appreciated the presentations as a new way of understanding problems that arise while educating children. The two presentations included the topics of impact of trauma on a child’s psychosocial development and the impact of stress on a child’s learning capacity in the classroom. In small discussion groups, the instructors drew from memory cases that fit the criterion discussed. It was as if a light came on. Now that they have a better understanding of the motivations of disruptive students, they can adjust their approach to discipline for the individual student and the entire class.

A new group worked at the IDP camp today and visited homes in a separate “block” of the camp than the previous two teams. Based on reports, today’s team seemed to have a somewhat different experience. The evidence of poverty was still present, but the people much more hopeful, even in the midst of stress and trauma. The homes in this block also seemed to be cleaner and generally better put together, with plenty of light and roofs that adequately protected residents from the elements. After hearing reports from the IDP camp visits over the past three days, its seems that the willingness to receive therapy increased as we spoke to residents that had more hope and whose basic needs were met. While some members of this camp are “better off” than others, simply meaning that they have slightly more possessions, All of these people lack the basic needs for survival: FOOD. WATER. CLOTHING. SHELTER.
Another group remained at the compound to present a seminar on parenting skills and child development to the IAA staff. In a similar observation as the day before, a team member said that attendees did not show much interaction during the didactic portion of the seminar, but came out with questions and comments during the small group discussion. As the presentation was psycho-educational in nature, the staff was able to identify signs of trauma in the children they cared for and learn skills that can be used in their own homes. One of the staff members had the fortune to immediately practice the skills as she walked downstairs to greet an unruly child.
The last group continued visiting homes in the community surrounding IAA, interacting with different types of families. Some families were poor and in great need of care while others were hard working and economically well-off. As they spent quality time with people in the community, team members remarked, “I felt like I was meeting a need.” Another person described it as, “It was like meeting with people in church.” They welcomed us into their homes, they told us their story, we learned from each other, and we prayed together.
Some in the community posed peculiar questions to our team, such as the types of contraception generally used in the U.S., and more specifically, those used by our female team members. Although it is awkward to respond to such a question, we realized that this is a prominent issue, as Kenya faces staggering population growth. In it’s concern over the distribution of resources, the government supplies contraception to citizens. Today, however, we saw on the front page of the local newspaper today that the Catholic Church is in protest on moral grounds.

Tuesday 7/24

Hello Bloggers! I must apologize for the delay of this blog. As with any trip, challenges occur in all forms. On Tuesday  we had an amazing day and just as I had finished waxing eloquently on and on about the adventures of our mission...poof! A big spark and the computer crashed. Much time and energy was spent trying to recover the words I had already written , to no avail. So, as I sit here and write this blog I have been contemplating exactly what the Lord would have you, our supporters know. 

I am awestruck by the amazing way in which the Lord used our team Tuesday. With some trepidation as to what the day would bring in light of the heavily weighted emotionality of the previous day; (Monday) our team once again split into four teams,  prayerfully released the grip of our own plans and expectations and adopted the plans of the Lord as we headed to our four separate destinations.
Aided by two interpreters, Team #1 headed to an Internally Displaced Person's Camp (IDP) where they continued to minister to those suffering from extreme poverty, hunger, sickness and rampant sexual abuse. In huts built from bamboo and most not bigger than a king sized mattress, the team split into two groups and met with many families in hopes to better understand their plight and pray with them. Together the teams met with approximately fifteen families delivering about 7-8 hours of intensive therapy. Story upon story of rampant sexual abuse, incest and trauma were uncovered. One man, clearly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress described  how his home was burned to the ground and neighbor murdered before him.  In another case, a young wife and mother painstakingly described to us the horror of watching her own four year be savagely raped and how she herself had been raped. She went on to describe the constant fear she experiences as she sees her rapist everyday. The end of the day was bittersweet as we met with a husband and wife who had been married for forty years! They described in great detail the difficulties and challenges of married life in the camp and expressed joy at having each other to depend on during these last 15 years of deprivation at the most extreme level. This couple's story was even more amazing as we learned that their daughter had passed away 6 years ago after the birth of her daughter; leaving this elderly couple to raise their granddaughter beginning at just one month old. All of these people lack the basic needs for survival. FOOD. WATER. CLOTHING. SHELTER.
Team #2 set out into the community surrounding IAA (Into Abba's Arms) for the first time. There they spoke with several farmers, mostly women as the men were all working hard in the fields or trying to sell their meager earnings. Many of the women were widowed and were learning to farm the fields on their own all the while caring for children and often; grandchildren. In spite of their hardships we found that these people were so extremely grateful for all that they do have. The struggles faced by these women include, isolation, desperation and domestic violence.  
Team #3 headed to St. Christopher's, a local Catholic High School to talk with teachers, administrators, and students about Self Esteem. The team presented  to approximately 150 students and the team reported a cross cultural experience as teens discussed their struggles with self esteem and learning to negotiate the influx of emotions that accompany adolescence. The discussions with the children yielded reports of long term domestic violence and sexual trauma. Several children reported being repeatedly beaten to the point of having welts and verbalized great fear at the possibility of returning home on break. During the second half of the day the team presented on Post Traumatic Stress, the effects of trauma and how trauma effects children in the classroom. In addition the team presented methods to identify these children and overcome the detrimental effects of said trauma.The team was able to discuss the similarities and differences between Kenyan schools and American schools and found that problems with self esteem, domestic violence and trauma most assuredly cross cultural bounds. The information given was so well received that the Head School Counselor requested that the team return next year for a week long seminar to exchange successes and further ways identify and assist students suffering from trauma. The information was new to them, yet they were eager to receive and clearly saw ways to apply the methodologies being taught by the team. 
So as I close this blog, for the second time, I take note of the frustrations I felt as the power strip blew and I was left without my computer...the frustration I felt compares little to the daily "basic needs" struggle the people here face moment by moment. One of the leaders of our trip always says, "Its not enough to just be flexible, you have to be fluid, because when you are fluid, you bend and move." Our team is learning to be fluid, bending and moving with the daily challenges of being on "Kenya time," power outages, and new experiences...praising the Lord all the way!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday 7/23

Today was our first day leaving the Into Abba’s Arms (IAA) compound to serve the surrounding communities. One six-member group from our team spent the day visiting with residents of a nearby internal displacement camp (IDP). The other three groups provided seminars on self-esteem to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at a local school. The three teams also presented on working with students who have been impacted by trauma to the teachers and school administrators.

As the van rolled onto the plot of land next to the IDP camp, the team was immediately spotted by small children who proceeded to chase the van down. They swarmed the van’s occupants with the anticipation of meeting new people. The children unashamedly ran up to each person, grabbing hands and asking to be swung around in circles. Their physical appearance made a bold statement of impoverishment but their faces were vibrant and full of life.
The residents of the community welcomed us with opened arms. The team visited the camp with the desire to help people overcome the symptoms of traumatic stress. However, the people were happy simply having visitors in their homes, pleased that someone would come out of their way to show concern for their needs.
“We’re waiting for the government to give us our new land.” It’s a promise that’s been in the works for 12 years. But many are still hopeful that they will once again have a plot of land to call their own. Having been removed from their properties over tribal disputes, most are dependent on the government and charities to meet their needs. Nearby forests provide wood and bamboo that can be put up for sale, but that does not fill the needs of every family.  Each family in the camp longs for the day when their land will be restored so they can provide themselves adequately.  
The team’s intent was to perform therapy; the people were grateful for company. Some residents, particularly younger residents, were much less optimistic than others, more concerned about their family’s next meal than with seemingly unrealistic hopes. Many of them grew up during tribal displacement and do not remember a time of owning land. Most of their memory is that of desperation. The team found it very difficult to encourage these young people. We pleaded with older generations to pour out their wisdom to the younger, restoring a sense of hope and motivation that has been lost.
The other portion of our team visited a local Catholic grade school that needed to educate students, teachers, and administrators on coping with traumatic stress. Culturally, it is unacceptable to speak about trauma out in the open, particularly trauma that occurs within the home. In addition, many teachers avoid engaging children that display symptoms of traumatic stress because they do not feel equipped for therapy. Though it is taboo to speak about sex in a formal setting, many of the students face the reality of sexual abuse. Other types of physical abuse are also not reported. Because of the “keep it in the kitchen” cultural mentality, instances of abuse and trauma are to be discussed within the family only, not mentioned to outsiders.
One of the team members said with strong emotion, “the kids are starving for something different.” This is the first opportunity many of them had to openly voice their experiences. Given a patient ear, the children were free to tell as much of their stories as they needed. In telling their stories and receiving feedback, the children worked through emotional and thought responses that will help them better manage stress in the future.
These children had the privilege of attending a Catholic school, but the highly-structured and formal environment provided little room for expressing what was going on inside. Hopefully, after receiving some training, their caring teachers will know how to engage the children emotionally, creating a foundation of self-esteem in their students. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday 7/22

Awoken by the sound of roosters, most of our team was greeted by a rather brisk morning at the IAA orphanage. The day was busy beginning with breakfast and then an invitation to their Sunday services. The call to worship was given through local music that increased in volume closer to when the service began.  The gates of the compound were opened so that those who heard the music would be welcomed to come and join in the worship.
The service was filled with testimonies by children in and around the orphanage and their love of Jesus. One profound word from an 8 year old: Worship God today, you may not be able to tomorrow. So beautiful. Even more beautiful is the unabashed joy as they sang and danced for the Lord. Songs of praise and adoration shouted in swahilli accompanied with clapping and nearly 100 dancing children, some as young as 2 years old.
Our hearts melted as little ones climbed into our laps or took our hands as they led us to join in celebration of our Lord and Savior. Nearly 3 hours of worship past as the service began to dissipate and we got to know the children even more as we played with them outside (soccer, swings, hair braiding, playing with toys, and taking pictures).
The children were fascinated with our womens’ long hair and the soccer skills of our guys. Long painted nails captivated as did watches, wheelchairs, and cameras.  The children were deliriously happy to have people to play with. Notably, these children have very little. Their clothes are tattered and their shoes were riddled with holes; electricity is a commodity and food is treasured (especially cookies).
Most have no idea about facebook, twitter, cell phones, or internet; yet they love the Lord and worship Him with all their might. They are grateful and they reminded our team of the truly important things in life.
1 Corinthians 13:13 – And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
A short break was followed with a training session that focused on the sessions that lie ahead in our 2 weeks here in Kenya. As we prepare to teach and minister in the community to those suffering from various traumas.
Tomorrow is a very full day where our team is splitting up and visiting an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp, and a school with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Your prayers and support have been tremendously felt with our safe travels and keeping us healthy and allowing the Spirit to move through us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday 7/21 Arrival in Nairobi

After two long flights and several hours of travel, we finally made it to Nairobi early this morning. I could tell that everyone on the team was exhausted, but still excited and motivated. On the evening ride from the airport into the center of the city, we passed several office buildings and industrial parks, scenery that is nearly identical to the common American suburb. I was taken somewhat by surprise. But it follows suit with everything that I heard about Nairobi being the commercial and financial hub of East Africa.

Our first night, we stayed at a hotel in the middle of the city. When we arrived in the middle of the night, everything was quiet, and peaceful. The only noise I heard was that of a few birds and the soothing 5 am call to prayer from the Mosque next door. Once the sun arose, the street became congested with cars, pedestrians, bikes, and motorcycles moving in every direction as traffic lights at the intersection had little purpose. I saw luxury European vehicles and small vans packed with passengers. There were well dressed men and women walking to midday prayer and young people weaving in and out of traffic, attempting to sell their goods to stopped motorists.

Something that stood out to most everyone was the transition from the city to the country. During our long journey out to the mountain home of the orphanage, we witnessed a highly developed metropolis, an urban slum, a suburban community with large homes and a busy supermarket, and small rural towns. The rural towns were mostly simple shacks and roadside shops allowing residents to sell goods to passing traffic. There was a stark difference as we noticed the increasing poverty the further we travelled from the city.

A particularly impressive view was that of the Great Rift Valley. I hope to post photos on our Facebook page soon.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Kenya- 2012

The Regent University’s First Response Team is headed to Nairobi, Kenya in just six days! Here we will minister to the local tribes, an orphanage, and Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP)  throughout the area 90 minutes northwest of Nairobi.We have an unbelievable opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people who have known little but devastation and hardship for many years. Numerous doors of opportunity have just opened to us to partner with Into Abbas’s Arms to support their efforts in school outreach, equip local pastors, teachers, and leaders with the skills necessary to support the people in their communities, and come alongside overburdened and disillusioned support personnel in the area.Partner with us by reading our daily blogs beginning July 19, 2012 and committing our team to your prayers. Feel free to check out our photo of the day on Facebook at!/pages/Regent-Trauma-Team-Kenya-2012/322470717845685