Saturday, June 4, 2011

Never Expected It to be That Tough

I always thought that the experience of being a student missionary at Maxwell Adventist Academy would be a very similar one to the experience the SMs have at NUA (Academy I graduated from). What do SMs back home go through? Culture shock, homesickness, trying different kind of food. I can handle that. After all, I’m going back to Africa; it should even be easier than being in the States. I was wrong. I never expected this year to be that tough.
My first month at Maxwell was great; however, by the second month things started to change. Things became a lot more challenging to the point of being VERY uncomfortable. I was still getting used to the whole teaching system and it was hard to find balance in different ways.  There were a lot of times when I asked: “What on earth am I doing in this country?” On November 29, 2010 my diary read, “ Lord. I’m here, in Kenya. Honestly, I don’t know why you sent me here for. If I knew how the situation was going to be like before I came, I wouldn’t choose to come here. But, I know that you sent me here for a reason. Show it to me please. I want to be happy about being here”.  It was very tough and the only things that could satisfy me was to be home. I just wanted to go home.

I did go home for a long Christmas break. I recharged my batteries and I was ready to face the challenges of the second semester. After Christmas I faced a whole different challenge than the one I faced first semester. Now, the problem was not about being in a place where I felt uncomfortable; Maxwell started to fell like a third home (after Egypt and LSU) to me. The problem was all the things that were going on back home; starting with the January 25 revolution and ending with the death of one of my friends. Since the start of this year, 2011, there has been a lot going on back home. It seemed that every time I went online there were more sad news to hear. It came to the point where I hated the Internet. I wanted to be home, but this time it was for a different reason. It wasn’t because of the discomfort at Maxwell; instead, it was because I wanted to be near my family and friends who were hurt!
One prayer I prayed as I said goodbye to my brother, John, and my friend, Joseph, at LAX was, “Father, help me to grow to be more like you this year.” There came many times when I questioned if God answered this particular prayer. And now as the year comes to an end, I can clearly say that He did answer my prayer. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” Galatians 2:20. This year was filled with the most challenging situations I have EVER faced in my WHOLE life. And because of these tough situations, I’m no longer who I used to be. Many things that used to really matter, no longer do. And things that I never valued are NOW worth living for.
And now as I write this, only few hours before graduation, I can say that my experience here at Maxwell Adventist Academy has been nothing but rewarding.  If time could go back to when I were to decided where to go as an SM, I don’t think that I would choose to go anywhere else!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Happy He Proves Me Wrong

This passed week has been one of the most challenging times I had to face this year, actually I can say in my whole life. Early morning on Wednesday, April 27 one of my friends, Mina Helmy, passed away.  As Mina and 13 other students were traveling from Zewak (a village in Upper Egypt) to Cairo, the microbus they were on got into an accident. As a result, one student died (Mina) , 9 went to the hospital, and 3 to emergency rooms. When brother first told me those horrible news I couldn’t believe him. I immediately skyped with my mom who happened to be online. Once I saw her black shirt, I realized that I was not dreaming. I knew that someone had died. 

Mina was a 19 year old senior who had big plans for further education. Mina was the brother to one of my very good friend and a classmate of mine, Joseph Helmy. It was hard to take it all in. How can one minute change everything? Mina is not the only one that Nile Union Academy lost this year of 2011. On April 1 Nahid Longi (a Sudanese student) died her sleep.  Within 1 month the school lost two students from the senior class.   

I didn’t know what to do. I called the library and asked one of my friends to cover for me because I needed some time alone. I sat on my bed looking through the window with tears flowing from both eyes like streams of water questioning, “Why? Why? Why? Why another one? Why young people? Why NUA? Why didn’t you save him? And why don’t you just come back now and put all these tragedies to an end?”  A while ago, Pastor Sam Leonor said that most people give up on God when they lose a loved one.  When I first heard this statement it didn’t really make sense, but after going through the lost of one of my friends, it made a lot of sense.   
It was so hard to be far away. I needed to be with my family and friends who are hurt. It was so hard to teach when my mind was thousands of miles away. It was hard to be around people who did not understand how I felt or how much I was hurting inside. What was even harder was the fact that I didn’t feel the presence of God in my life. I couldn’t be comforted. I couldn’t have peace. And I couldn’t feel God. My life was a mess! “God, when will you help me? Do you even care? Are you really gonna come back to take us to heaven? Do you even exist?” I questioned and questioned and questioned. You might think that it is wrong to question all this but honestly that’s what was going through my mind.

Well, God proved me wrong. And I love it when He does this. This passed Sabbath Pastor Marland May came all the way from Taxes to preach at Maxwell Adventist Academy. The title of his sermon was, “How can a caged bird sing?” Before Marland started his sermon he prayed and said, “Lord, may it be your words not mine.” I fully believe that God was speaking not Marland. In this sermon God told me, “Germeen, I am near even when you don’t feel that I am. I am coming back ASAP to put all these sad things to an end. I care and I love you so much.”  Now, you might think that it was a coincidence that Pastor Marland had to preach at Maxwell this Sabbath. However, I don’t. I believe that God sent him all the way from the US to deliver a message He had for me. We ended the church service by singing “When peace likes a river” Every world of this song made so much sense to me. “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.” The last verse of the song was my prayer.

So how can a caged bird sing? Because it doesn’t matter where it is at, it chooses to sing.  I left the church believing that I was touched by the precious hands of God. I cried, but this time it was tears of a person who could finally find comfort. And now I pray that these same hands that touched my heart would touch the families that grieve the lost of their loved ones. I pray that despite of all that they go through, that they might find comfort in Jesus Christ. I pray that He would prove them wrong just like He did with me.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Learning to be More Patient

This passed weekend on Friday night Maxwell Adventist Academy presented a concert of wind ensemble in instruments of praise. The bad played 9 different hymnals. I was the MC for the concert. Before the band played the famous song, “Amazing Grace”, I shared the story of John Newton, the writer of the words of the song.
Newton was not blessed with a good support during his growing up years. His mom died when he was only 7 years old, leaving him under the support of his dad. In Newton’s early teen years, he helped with his dad’s business by working on his slave ship. He stayed under his dad’s influence for few years. Latter on he decided to work for another man who was even worse than his own dad. At the age of 21, Newton was the captain of his own slave ship. One day as Newton was sailing from Africa to England his ship hit a strong storm. At that very moment Newton called to God for help for the first time in his lifetime. After Newton’s deliverance from the deadly storm, he gave his heart to God and became a Christian. The main point I touched on was the fact that Newton didn’t give up his business once he because a Christian. For several, after he was converted, he dealt with slaves. It wasn’t until Newton grew in faith that he left slave trading and became a minster. I love the fact that God doesn’t expect up to be perfect once we know Him. He takes it step by step and sees it as a gradual change. He is so patient with us.

 Three days before the concert, one of my students came for Math tutoring at night. After spending about an hour and a half working on a simple little problem I got so annoyed and ran out of patience. I felt like I was teaching the exact lesson I taught earlier in class all over again. I paused and asked her is she was even paying attention to what I was saying in class. I was crushed when I heard these words coming out of her mouth; “ Miss, I couldn’t understand you. You speak English too fast for me.” I just felt so bad for getting impatient with her. I immediately responded, “well, I’m so glad you come and ask for help then. I’ll try to speak slower, but never hesitate to ask me for help any time outside class.”
Patience….patience. If we expect God to be so patient with us, why are we not when dealing with others? To be honest, sometimes it’s hard to be patient but God is always there to give us strength when we need it. God always sends someone to encourage me; most of the time it’s through my student’s words. Finding nice words on the board as I enter class and thank you notes on the homework and quizzes papers gives me power to be more patient. I praise God for every single student I have. I praise God for the privilege of working with them and learning from them every single day.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

God is There in The Midst of Chaos


This passed weekend I got another amazing opportunity. I went with a mix group from Australian to a women’s’ prison in Nakuru. It was my first time being inside a prison and having some conversations with prisoners. There were about 200 women there with different cases that went from steeling all the way to murder. We visited them two different days.
Sabbath was a special day. We arrived to prison at about 9:30 am and immediately started our service with some Kiswahili songs. We had three singers from an nearby SDA church who lead song service for everyone. At the end of song service, some of the prisoners got an offer to lead in their own songs; they accepted. Five of them got up and lead us passionately for 3 active songs. We had prayer followed by a beautiful sermon by Joy Batler focused on Romans 8:35-38. At the end, we shook hands with all the prisoners, had small conversations with some of them, and then left.

On Sunday morning, we arrived to prison at about 9:00 am for some medical work. We had one doctor and 5 nurses who looked at the cases of every prisoner. We also had different other stations like face painting, for the little kids. I was the pharmacist for the day. We thought that only those who need to see the nurse would go. Not surprisingly, we were mistaken, all the women lined up with their kids waiting for a free medical check up. We also had some packages for every single woman that had some necessary items they need like: toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper… etc.

a prisoner's child who is 2 months old 

I never imagined that I could experience the presence of God in prison among all those who hurt (whether deliberately or unintentionally) others. Many times we tend to judge those who are in prison without getting to really know them and the reason behind their stories. I was amazed as I felt the passion that those prisoners had while leading in song service, leading in prayer, and during the private conversations I had with some of them. It was a blessing to meet people who have hope of one day being out of the bondage of prison even though they have 14 more years to go. It was a blessing to see some of them deeply moved by the prayers that we offered while committing themselves to God and asking for a better future. I was blessed to be there.   

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm a New SM!

Maxwell Adventist Academy has a yearly trip to hike up mount Kenya. School goes off on a Thursday evening and reopens on the following Tuesday evening. I had the chance to go with the school on that trip, but after hearing that one of my friend was going to volunteer at an SDA orphanage in a village about 4 hours away from Nairobi I was in a dilemma. Working in an orphanage was one of the experiences I always wanted to have and hiking up mount Kenya is probably a lifetime chance. After some prayer and looking at the school calendar I realized that if I don’t use this break to go to the orphanage, I probably wouldn’t have another chance to go. So without hesitation, I decided to volunteer for 5 days at Ian Castleman Orphanage.
Yes! We made it. 
Ian Castleman Orphanage is not in Nairobi or anywhere near there. It’s in a village that is about 50 minutes away from a town called Nakuru, which is about two and a half hours away from Nairobi. To get there, Violetta (a close friend of mine) and I decided to take matatus, public microbuses, to experience more of the culture and how the people live on a daily bases. And sure enough, we had an experience! When we arrived to the matatu station in Nairobi we bought our tickets and waited for an hour for the matatu to arrive. Once it arrived it took us about two and a half hours to arrive to Nakuru. Then we faced the challenge of trying to find another matatu to take up to the village. When we asked some of the locals who were there, they told us the station is not nearby and that we had to walk or take a taxi to reach there.  It was hard to walk with five bags and a box full of project for the kids, and we didn’t have enough money to take a taxi. Well, guess what? God answered the prayer that we did not even pray. To everyone’s surprise the matatu that never passes through the station where we were at, passed just when we needed it. Not only that, but it seems that everyone we got in contact with through out our trip was very helpful. All the sudden I found the taxi drivers leaving their taxies, picking up our luggage, placing it in the back of the matuatu and telling, “Go. Go. This is the matatu you need”. I felt like a brand new SM who slowly discovers how God works in small details of a person’s life.

The sewing machine was broken so we had to sew everything by hand
When we arrived to the orphanage I was stunned. Kenya has a lot of orphanages but this one is very different. The orphanage has more than 140 orphans; many of them are disable and about 10 are HIV Positive. After hearing a lot of the stories about the kids I felt like I could not handle anymore. The stories and the situations the kids were in broke my heart. To be honest with you, it took me two days to get use to the place I was at. Over all I really enjoyed my time there and I had a beautiful experience. I spent a lot of time playing with the kids, leading worships, sewing clothes, and even teaching the 7th grade Algebra and CRE (Christian Religious Education).


Here are some of the stories that really touched me.

Emmanuel is a disable child who came to the orphanage with his mom. His mom pleaded to work as a career at the orphanage so she can have some income and take care of her disabled boy at the same time. After 8 months of work, the woman ran away leaving her child behind. The director of the orphanage told me that he hasn’t seen her for 18 months since then.

Elisha Ian Castleman:
Elisha was found under a tree covered in mud, with his placenta still attached to his body. He was immediately taken to the hospital and after recovering he was taken to the orphanage. The director of the orphanage held him in his hand when he was only 2 hours old. The OCS (Office of Commanding Situations) found Elisha’s mother. She was arrested for attempted murder. When asked to defense her case, the mother said that the father of the baby left her and when she realized that she couldn’t raise the child up she decided to leave him under a tree.


Joseph has a problem with his spinal cord, which affects his back and brain. A lady who pretended to be a poor neighbor of the mother brought him to the orphanage. After the little boy was accepted, the directors discovered that the lady who brought him was his own mother.

This girl has the most interesting story of all. A story I would only see in movies such as Tarzan. While some women were collecting some firewood around the fences of a game park, they saw a child with some baboons. They then rushed to the child care office and reported the story. The baby was taken outside the park and immediately to Elburgon Hospital that is about 4 miles away from the orphanage. Doctors reported that the baby was seven years old when she was brought out of the game park. It was also assumed that the baby was left with the baboons before she was one year old and that is why the baboons considered her their own child. Charity was breast fed by a baboon, which cause her to grow baboon hair all over her body. Charity is now in the orphanage doing a lot better. She still has some baboon hair on her back. However, it’s slowly going away. She is still in kindergarten and when she screams, it sounds just like a monkey. I heard her say one word the whole time I was there. It was: “Thank you”. Just hearing this word coming out her mouth made my day! I believe that one day she’ll act just like a normal human being acts.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15. I read this verse so many times but I never really realized the deep meaning it holds. It was just so hard to imagine a woman leaving her won child. I never though that I would actually hear true stories of women who have no compassion on their children. However the Bible itself tells us that they will forget, but He will never forget us. Praise God for Ian Castleman Orphanage and all the people who serve there. God has not forgotten all these children who were forgotten by their biological parents. He sent other people who can be their parents, take care of them, and show them His unconditional love. And I had the privilege to work with these people for 5 days. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heaven has never tasted so sweet!

I woke up at 3:57 am with a scream and the astonishing realization that it was only a nightmare. I pinched my arm and turned on the light to make sure that I was awake. “Lord, Thank you so much that it’s not reality” I prayed as my right hand reach under my pillow for my cell phoned and dialed Dad’s number in Egypt. “Baba, are you and mom okay?” I asked with a worried voice.
“ Ya, we’re fine. Why are you calling that early? Are you okay?” his voice was slightly becoming more worried.
Sandy, Dad, Mom, and I 
“ Ya. I’m fine. I just had a bad dream and I wanted to make sure you and mama are okay.” I said as I was getting relieved.
“ Don’t worry. We’re all fine here. May God give you peace. Mom and I will pray for you.” Dad said with his usual comforting voice.
“Thanks dad. Sorry for waking you up. Good night”
“No problem. Good night.”
            My dream was something like that. Mom and I were in Egypt, near Tahrir Square, during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. All the protesters crowded around Mubarak’s house and kept shouting, ”If you don’t leave we’ll have to end your life.”  I was a little worried about Mubarak so I asked my mom if they could really kill him. Unfortunately, before my mom was able to even answered my question, we saw millions of people carrying guns, sticks, stones,…etc pushed their way into Mubarak’s house and started fighting. Mom told me that we had to run away so we don’t get hurt. On our way home, we heard the devastating news that Mubarak was dead. I was HEARTBROKEN! What was even more horrifying was the news that mom told me when we reached home. “Your Dad is the one who died” She said. So apparently in my dream My Dad was Mubarak. It might sound funny now, but at 4:00 am before the sun was even out, it would be terrifying. All that I could do after hearing those news was to run in my moms arms and join her in sobbing.  
Thankful for my brother 

After my call to my dad I thanked God for all the people who are present in my life especially for my family and for their health. For the next hour I was laying on my bed thinking of all the different families I know of who lost their loved ones. Just last school year at LSU, before I left to Kenya, about three friends of mine lost a parent. This past Christmas break a friend of mine lost his 23rdish years old brother who got electrocuted by a light pole while driving in the rain. Besides all the deaths that we had after the bombing in Alexandria, just from the Feb 25, 2011 Egyptian revolution about 500 more people died. Thousands of people die and thousands of families are heartbroken everyday. I heard all these stories before but I never really connected to the pain that those families went through. After this nightmare I had a glimpse of how it’s like to lose a loved one. “When will it end Lord? When?” Oh, I was tired of this broken world we live in. Heaven has never tasted so sweet. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” Revelation 21:4
There is a lot of sadness in this world, if not death, there are thousands of other things that can put a person down. I can’t blame God for al these things because I know that He only gives good gifts to his children. “ If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11 In fact I believe that God weeps with those who weeps and when a tear comes down my eye there are hundred tears that come down His eye. “The lord is close to the brokenhearted” Plsams34: 18
But when will He put all these things to an end? When will He come back? I’m not sure when, but I believe that He is coming in His perfect timing. But until then, I know that I can face all these hardships that comes through my way because He gives me the strength I need to face them. And I pray that others would not give up on God because He will NEVER give up on them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's All About Love!

at my grandma's house for Christmas  

Since Maxwell Adventist Academy has only one long break during the school year, I was blessed to spend Christmas/ birthday in Egypt (home). Wow, just remembering how I felt as the plane was landed in Cairo airport, as I was being greeted, “welcome home.” by the workers I encountered, and as I ran to meet my parents and best friends who were waiting for me gives me Goosebumps. My first two weeks were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. School was still going on at NUA (Nile Union Academy) and I enjoyed hanging out with some of the students I went to school with. I even got to teach three classes for missionaries who had to go home early for Christmas break. It was AWESOME!  
at one of the soccer stadiums in Cairo
All was well until Jan 1, 2011 around 12:15 am. There was bombing in Alexandria, in front of one of the Coptic Churches. As the priest was finishing his last prayers for the New Year few of the hundreds who were attending the service decided to leave few minutes early before everyone crowds at the gate.  About five minutes after they left, a very loud boom followed by loud noises of people screaming and weeping shook the whole church building. When everyone started rushing to the gate to see what was happening, all that they could see was a damaged car and pieces of human meat everywhere. About 22 youth/ adults died and double the amount were in different hospitals in dangerous conditions. After all the police investigate, the newspaper concluded that the horrible crime was terrorist attach.
Not too long ago, Jan 6 (the Egyptian Christmas eve), 2010 six young men got shot as they were coming out of the church after the Christmas Eve program in Naga Hammadi (one of the Egyptian villages). Before even a year has passed, Christians had facing another heartbreak.
There was a sad spirit among all the Christians in Egypt. As it is our tradition to buy new clothes for Christmas, most of them decided not to and wore black clothes instead. All students at the academy were furious. Some of them were talking to me about what happened and all that they kept repeating was that they HATE whoever did this crime. Egyptian channels kept on posting news about the accident and the new news that police was able to investigate. One of the Christian Egyptian channels interviewed some of the families in Alexandria that could not find dead bodies to their own relatives. I would not be able to forget the mourning I watched that a grandma had over her lost daughter, son in-law, and grandchildren. “Why would people do such a thing? Can’t they see all the heartache they’re causing to these innocent people? If I encounter one of these guilty people, how can I deal with them?” I was thinking. One of Christian songs that were made just for these events says, “We can hold guns and kill you, but we won’t because our Christ taught us to love you.” This song made me think a lot.   
Different people speak about love often, as if it’s an easy process.  During my break in Egypt and especially after this incident I realized how hard it is to love those who hurt and kill the closest people to you. It was very hard for all the Egyptians to come to the point that all that they could do was to only love and keep loving and loving, but by the help of all the pastors and the sermons on TV most of them were able to come to that point.

All that I was thinking of was, “I wish I was able to stand somewhere and give a long speech and say to all those who did this horrible crime that they are not making God happy by killing His own children” But there was something different about how I felt. Despite of all my heartache, I could sense deep love for those who did this crime. I actually felt sorry for them and prayed that God will forgive them. It was a love that no human power can ever give. It was the kind of love that only God could put in my heart. It the same kind of love that pushed Jesus to pray for those who killed him and say ”Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. Yes my heart was aching but it wasn’t full of hatred. “So what are we suppose to do to them?” some of the NUA students asked. “Keep loving them and pray that someday they’ll understand.” I answered.
When I came back to Maxwell, as I was having supper with some of the students, one of the girls, Bethany, asked me,”Miss Germeen, if I would ask you of the one thing that is so essential in this life, what would you say?” As she asked this question my mind traveled thousands miles away and I was able to picture all the craziness that Egyptians went though and I answered, “ LOVE”.