Saturday, December 22, 2012

Breathing to Believe

December 14, 2012

Eyes closed by arms traveling the path of a pendulum. Tiny brown hands lay on mine as I sway back and forth. Cradled close I feel the breath of life entering and out of her mouth. Somehow watching a baby fall asleep in arms bent makes us feel secure. All is right in the world in that moment: breath exists! Life. Hope.

Humanity everywhere is breathing to believe; to hope.

"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."

When Breath filled the dust of the ground there was our Hope! Hope revealed as breath, life, alive. And we were filled. Then we tripped and fell on our own hunger to be filled by something we thought was missing, but it wasn't! We were full. Full of life, purpose, and the snake couldn't stand it. He was the one who was hungry. We are full, but we are also blind. We think we are hungry or we can survive without the food. "Am I always the atheist in [His] Arms...?"*

But we are always filled!

And we are not blind with the lens of thankfulness. A lens that can only see Jesus in the end. A lens seeing in others the face of Jesus. "...Jesus...has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."(Acts 9:17)

Tonight I am thankful for breath; beauty from dust as I examine the intricate designs of tiny brown fingers, little boys who fall asleep on my lap in church, and the peacefulness of a baby's closed eyes amidst a world broken by the same hands I examine.

My belief rests on the peacefulness of this little one in my arms: as long as a baby can sleep breathing peacefully in the midst of a hurting world then there is hope. Hope in the One who breathes life into the lowest of places and creates beauty.

"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us." -Martin Luther

*Quoted from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smudged Humanity

Sometimes I forget where I am. It happened again today. Sitting on the back of a rickshaw van with two of my fellow teachers and friends here, Shuma and Tuli, being pedaled by a man back to Bangla Hope through the late afternoon fog I saw the scene before me with new eyes.

Dozens of rickshaws weaving their way along the street between trucks, goats, and people. Children laughing and turning from their tasks; yelling their greeting to me while waving wildly (Oh yeah, I guess I am the only white girl for miles around.) Hundreds of cows and people dot the horizon as they finish up the last of the rice harvest.

Maybe it was the weather today. Waking up to fog so thick you could only see 10 feet in front of you and a temperature more like the climate I experience at home in the Pacific Northwest. Although 70 degrees with 88% humidity is quite different and a lot colder here than at home. Or, maybe it was the sight of the man wearing a lungi I sat knee to knee with on the rickshaw. Friendly with black hair, whiskered face, speaking nothing but Bangla. Today, I saw again: where I am now will change me. Where I've been is still with me. My physical location on this earth or chosen profession doesn't change the fact that I am human. No matter where you go or what you see we are all the same. Humanity everywhere is breathing to believe; to hope. It may not be the same hope, but we are all desperate for something better. We were created this way.

"There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our heart. We were born with it, it is never completely satisfied, and it never dies. We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake...Our true identity, our reason for being, is to be found in this desire." -Gerald May The Awakened Heart

Bangladesh is my home. And even though I came here to serve others my priorities still get mixed up. Sometimes I forget where I am, because on the inside I am still Mackenzie no matter if I am at home being called "Macca" or here being called "Kenzie Teacher" by 130 children; I am still a being whose humanity smudges the beauty around me despite my best intentions. What I'm finding in spite of my shortcomings is before I leave my apartment to serve others I need to spend time with Jesus in solitude. Otherwise, my service is nothing. "Without Love..." (aka Jesus: 1 Corinthians 13).  Easy to say, huh? So hard to do!

The SM office sent me a devotional book a couple of weeks ago. In the past I haven't been a huge fan of devotional books in my own life, but I decided to give it a shot to keep myself accountable. How's it coming you may ask? Well, I got to day 10. It's day 12 and the book is sitting unopened beside my bed with the marker still on day 10. So, I'm still working on it. But, what I'm finding through various failures is I still succeed at the end of the day when I can count Jesus' appearances in various gifts throughout my day. Jesus then becomes the victor of my day; not my fallen, broken humanity.

Change takes time, but remembering where we are in the here and now and where we have been is important to the process. Being present is being in communion with the One who is from beginning to end.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teacher Who?

Quickly I turn my eyes to the whiteboard; allowing only the inanimate object the dignity of seeing my frustration run its course. I am not a teacher and yet here I stand in a classroom with 17 sets of big brown eyes awaiting my poised marker to make a move to give them their next math problem to solve. I refuse to blame their previous and current teacher for their classroom manners (or the lack thereof), because in this moment they are my students. I hold the responsibility of nurturing their learning capabilities. And in this moment I struggle to find control and composure for a group of students who refuse to simply listen for 2 minutes. Choice. I have a choice to make. They have a choice to make. Do I take away part of their recess or will they choose to be quiet and finish their math problems? And a thought enters my thick, stubborn head, "Am I going about this the right way?" Learning to first respect the student is sometimes a challenge. Respect is a give and take concept. It requires of me to have perspective. Or, in my case, the strife for perspective, because I am not sure I have reached that pinnacle of concept just yet.

Walking out of the classroom once I was finished teaching I was called to the office to retrieve a package sent from the SM office at WWU. Cutting the strings which bound the objects inside I found my answer to classroom management. Inside the package was candy and some homemade pencil holders. On top was a note explaining if you can't use the items in the package then give them to your students as prizes. Aha!

Entering the classroom this morning I was greeted by a chorus of voices almost shouting, "Good morning Teacher!" Responding politely as I quietly raised my hand and waited. Slowly hands went up and mouths were closed. Explaining to them their new challenge (they are competitive children): "At the end of each week until Christmas break I will give a prize to the best listener and quietest worker in the class." And with that proclamation the rest of the class period went by with only a few reminders to listen as we went through the math lesson together. I'm hopeful and confident in their ability to succeed at this learning opportunity. Even if it takes a couple of trials and errors on mine and the students' part. I may never be an elementary school teacher, but each morning asking Jesus to be the strength in me to deal with these challenges in a fair and pure way is a good reminder and lesson I am learning slowly. If this challenge presents me the need to talk with Jesus more then I am thankful, because as a broken human I am in desperate need of a Teacher.

Jesus, may I have eyes to see the sanctuary of your love and teaching amidst the challenge before me.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father...I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Made apple pies with Shati using our hands and a sickle knife.
Curled up in a plastic chair in the corner of the kitchen with my feet resting on the edge of the counter I sit reading One Thousand Gifts, nibbling on a piece of fresh coconut. Wafts of cinnamon and apple float past as Shati boils the two on the stove and Ben Howard plays in the background. Little brown hands and eyes peek around the corner to steal a glimpse of this white girl reading in the corner of the kitchen. I smile to the pages as I steal my own glances of their curiosity. A day of U.S. national thanks has come with the clock's reading. But to this girl who sits in the corner of the kitchen reading a book, it's just another day.

Another day where I teach the letters T, U, and V to kindergarten. Another day where I get to kick a soccer ball around the yard with the older boys. Another day where you find a crying child sitting on the ground. Scooping him up and wiping those tear stained cheeks, his body relaxes against mine.

At home this past year I was blessed to live with and around people who intentionally gave thanks for little everyday gifts. I witnessed the quiet change in their lives and as I left home and came to my new home here, I was determined to live out my life in the same way where everyday is Thanksgiving.

Four summers ago I worked in Big Lake's kitchen. Once a week Baker John would go around the little corner of the kitchen where we sat and asked us when we had hung out with Jesus in the past week. Now, when I go to bed each night and recount the small everyday blessings they seem much more significant than before and I can see through these simple gifts that Jesus was with me all day long.

Yes, today Americans at home and around the world are giving thanks on a preset calendar date, but I've learned God doesn't have a calendar. At least not one that looks like ours. And here in Bangladesh where I am and there where you are sitting with your computer, just inches away from you are wondrous, simple, mind blowing gifts for you and I to discover, name, and give thanks for. Everyday. Some days are harder to write down the thank you's than others, but that doesn't mean that there weren't any gifts given that day,I just wasn't opening my eyes enough to see them. Everyday is a thanksgiving day. A day for eucharisteo.

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baby Kenzie

Waking up early and watching the sunrise from my desk at the window I knew this was going to be a special day. Walking down the stairs at 7 am I waited for Mrs. Waid to come, so that we could go for a morning walk. After about 15 minutes and no Mrs. Waid I heard Shati calling to me from the front walkway, "Kenzie, asho!"(bangla for "come"). I followed Shati to the kitchen where I watched the whole kitchen crew prepare breakfast and lunch.

Hearing the breakfast bell ring, I walked around the corner of the kitchen with a bowl in hand and plopped myself down in the middle of class 4 girls ready to eat some dahl. Scooping the rice and dahl onto my fingers and trying ever so hard to gracefully shovel it into my mouth which caused the girls to giggle as they found entertainment in my attempt to eat Bangali style.

About a hour later I sat down to my 2nd breakfast of the day with the Waid's and the other 9 missionaries who are here from the U.S. as a medical team, Mrs. Waid said to me, "Kenzie, today you are not going to teach, because we are going to get a baby girl." Normally, I am not a person who squeals. At all. But, today I squealed with delight with the thought of getting a new baby to bring home.

Dr. Becky checking her out
Climbing into the van with Dr. Becky, the pastor, and Mrs. Waid we drove to a small village about a hour North. Upon arrival we immediately noticed a girl about my age holding a small baby whose skin was in bad condition. The girl holding the baby we learned was the oldest sister who was taking care of her after the mother had died about a month ago. She had one younger sister and the father was going to school. Taking the baby, Mrs. Waid asked for some warm water and soap to bathe the child. we knew something wasn't right about this baby, because she hadn't cried at all until we started washing her. Dr. Becky held her in the sunlight after Mrs. Waid had clothed her and examined her skin and feet and brushed the black dot from her forehead (the Hindu symbol for good luck). The baby's feet were swollen! "Malnutrition is probably what caused the swelling," presumed Dr. Becky. She handed the little baby off to me. As I cradled and sang to her I noticed how beautiful her big brown eyes were. My heart started melting. Bringing my hand away from the baby's head I found pieces of dark flaky skin on my hands. The poor baby's whole body was pealing so badly from some sort of fungus or sickness.
Baby Kenzie's oldest sister

As we were leaving the older sister came over to me. I handed the baby to her and as she cradled the little girl in her arms for the last time, tears started cascading down her cheeks. Mrs. Waid then told me I needed to take the baby from her. My heart ached as I reached out to take the baby. I struggled to make eye contact with the sister as I let her kiss the baby goodbye and bent down so the younger sister could do the same.

Getting into the van, the baby began to cry as I cradled her close and looked out the window at the family and villagers as we drove away from the village. As we drove, the baby fell asleep to the rhythm of the van's movements and Mrs. Waid said, "We're going to call this baby Kenzie." Looking down at baby Kenzie in my arms as we drove towards home I was filled with a mix of emotions, but mostly happiness as I said aloud, "Just think! This baby gets to know who Jesus is." To give a child that simple and beautiful gift along with care, food, and shelter had never penetrated my thinking before in such a powerful way. Baby Kenzie gets to know who Jesus is. And I thank Him for making Bangla Hope a place where that is possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beauty in Community

November 12, 2012

Flat. Land unfamiliar, but strangely comforting. Looking towards the horizon an ocean of silence stands tall, still in wait for the harvest. Its stalks of green turned yellow confidently confirm the coming change. The change that is happening. Slowly, but persistently it comes like the crowing of the rooster morning and noon. It's inevitable and it happens. Lush fields yield crop and community lives on for another season. Survival of the fittest or a thriving people? You decide, but I know the answer. Brokenness drives them to the fields. From dust you are from. To dust you shall sow."...for dust you are and to dust you will return." So, take heart and thrive! Choice is borne from Love. Gratitude from sickles swung clean and through. Eucharisteo gives life for one who tills dust. Community is the blossom of dust tilling. Patience, perseverance, power in numbers unified. Mouths are filled and thankful stomachs are the result of this blossoming, hard working community. Everyone sows seed, all reap a harvest of gratitude and unity. Lush green stalks turn yellow. Good comes from the absence of green. Beauty from ashes. Beauty from dust.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reincarnation of Love

The scent of smoke and polluted water filled my nostrils as I sat watching the shallow flow of the river looking for the answer to my question. My senses had just registered an unfamiliar smell. I looked up from the river and over to an altar-type platform where a stack of logs sat with an object covered by orange flowers and a sheet which had just been lit on fire by a woman who had placed a smoking stick on top of the object. There was my answer: burning flesh.

I was watching a Hindu cremation ceremony of a four-year-old boy who had recently died at a temple called Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. His mother had just laid a burning stick on his body. The rest of the boy's extended family stood a few feet away hoping his spirit would be reincarnated. As a follower of Jesus this was one of the most devastating things I had ever witnessed. I realized in that moment I had never been to a non christian funeral before. I have no idea what God decides in these situations about salvation, but I do believe Christians won't be the only ones in heaven. Sitting there watching this ceremony take place and listening to the wailing of a family whose hope was put in the cycle of reincarnation, I felt sick. This boy had never heard the name of Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, our hope is simple and beautiful. We believe in one Being who extends a gift of grace. Grace in its fullest sense: "Mercy. A manifestation of favor." as the dictionary puts it. Love is here! All we have to do is exist, become vulnerable to Love's embrace and soak it in. Simplicity. Soaking in and looking into the face of Love we become a reflection where Love starts streaming out of us like clear, refreshing streams of water. Beauty.

Annapurna range
Standing to my feet as I walked away from the wailing and smoke I talked to Jesus and my heart still ached. But, maybe that's part of the reflection of Love. And I'm okay with that.


-My trip to Nepal was successful! My visa was extended till February and then I can reapply in Dhaka for another one. Thank you for all of your prayers!

-Enoch is adjusting well and has the most beautiful smile. Plus he took his first steps last week!

Friday, October 26, 2012


The sun was sinking towards the horizon out the truck's window to my left as it bumped and jostled us down the road to the government hospital in Hili. Rebecca had been playing a game at the picnic when she ran into Hannah and their heads collided. Hannah's teeth had sunk into Rebecca's head just above her right eyebrow. She had a gash about 2 inches long. Bani grabbed the pastor and I and we climbed into the truck and headed to the emergency room. I was interested to see what a government hospital would look like in such a country as this. Rounding a corner and passing under an archway we arrived at the hospital. To be honest, this building looked more like the remains of a building bombed by WWII planes.

Walking into a dimly lit room just off the entrance that was about 9 by 15 feet in area where a large table sat in the center with three skinnier tables along the perimeter we waited for the doctor. Even though Rebecca hadn't said hardly a word since we left Bangla Hope I could tell she was scared by the way her hand sweated while holding mine tightly. An older lady lay sick on a table across the room while an elderly man sat with his arm resting on the large table. His arm looked like someone had melted ducktape to it. The older man explained to Bani that he had been burned by oil. Ouch! Apparently HIPPA doesn't exist in this country's medical system.

A man came out of the next room and told Rebecca to lay down on the table by the window. Outside men were peering in the window asking questions and staring at me. I always seem to forget that I am the only white person around for miles until I go to town and everyone stares. All I have to say is the doctor didn't really keep his medical tools out of eyesight from Rebecca. When he grabbed a razor to cut her eyebrow hair off, she started to squirm and move away, so I held onto both of her shoulders so she couldn't move and tried to explain to her what he was doing and that he was going to make her head feel better and I told her to try not to look at what he was doing, but to look at me instead. Poor girl, I would be pretty scared to be in her position as well in such circumstances. The doctor numbed the area then took the thickest piece of string I have ever seen used for sutchers and threaded it through the biggest sutcher needle I had ever seen and sewed her 2 inch gash with one big fat stitch. All of a sudden we heard a crash and about 4 feet away a man had collapsed face first on the floor from the sight of Rebecca's blood. Bani and I looked at each other and smirked.

After wrapping her head in a bandage she climbed off the table and we waited for the doctor to give Bani a prescription. Wrapping my arms around her 10 year-old shoulders, I could feel Rebecca's heart beating hard! We followed Bani to a pharmacy then left for home. Later, when I went to say goodnight to the older girls, I found the usually reserved Rebecca chattering away to Devin with a big smile on her face about the man who had collapsed in the hospital. I guess the painkillers are working!


Two days ago Mrs. Waid left the campus to drive north to pick up a 1 year old baby boy. When she got back she told me I could name him, but it had to be a name from the Bible. I love names, so I thought hard about it. I wanted this baby's name to be unique. I settled on the name Enoch. In the Bible Enoch was very close with God; so close God took him to heaven and I hoped as this new baby grew he would also find a close relationship with God.

The first night Enoch was here and half of yesterday I stayed with him. Holding him and feeding him his bottle. It seemed no one could get him to stop crying, so they handed him off to me and it turns out if you walk around and sing to him, Enoch will stop crying and fall asleep. Poor kid is probably so confused.

Picnic day was yesterday and all of the kids were so excited to play games outside instead of being in school. I was very busy taking videos and sponsor photos of each of the children in between helping with games, but around lunchtime I took Enoch from his caregiver, so she could have a rest. After feeding him a bottle (which he promptly spit-up half of it on me) he chattered on and on as we walked around campus. This kid walks so fast! Danny, Joseph, and Melony came over and ever since they have been so good about feeding Enoch and holding him when he's crying. Joshua carries him around at night till he falls asleep and it warms my heart to see the older children take such initiative and care to make Enoch's transition a little bit easier.

Even though I didn't have the chance to witness Enoch's mother giving him away, I can only imagine the pain she must have felt. Bangla Hope is an oasis of safety and love for these kids in the midst of a hurting country and I think Enoch's mother realized this and made the sacrifice so her son could live a better life than she could give him. We are all happy though to welcome Enoch into Bangla Hope's family!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recent Photos

Sabbath walk playing hide and seek in the rice patties.

Oragami creatures for Friday art class!

This is little Levi wearing a matching headband to mine. After fitting all the girls to new dresses,  Levi patiently sat on my lap and I cut this fabric from one of the dresses and tied it to our heads.

Sherry, Bristy, me, and Connie in the back of the truck going to town to get their own salwar camis'.

Canadians in Bangladesh?

October 19, 2012

A couple days ago I was told two missionaries were coming for a couple of weeks. Shathi said two boys were coming with the Waid's back from Dhaka. I was so confused. I could not figure out who in the world could be coming! Sitting down to breakfast yesterday morning I heard the screen door open and turning around I found Devin McCan and Logan Carter standing in our cafeteria in Bangladesh. This world is so small! Before coming here, I had never met Logan before and had only met Devin a few times at the weekly Walla Walla "Family Dinner." They are here for 12 days taking videos of the children and surrounding village to make a promo video for Bangla Hope to use on 3ABN. Bangla Hope is just one of their many stops on their journey through Asia making videos for various Adventist organizations. Having two Americans here, much less Walla Wallaians, is a treat for sure.

Along with having the surprise of Logan and Devin here yesterday I was finally allowed to go into Hili! Bani, Logan, Devin, and I all piled onto the back of "Mr. Puffin-toot" (affectionately named by Kelsey) which is a platform with wheels connected to a motorcycle. This was great fun as we passed village children running beside us trying to give us high-fives and once we reached Hili, driving so close to those bus's can be quite exhilirating on such a small vehicle. Our driver let us off at the market place where us three white college students struggled to keep up with Bani as she quickly wove her way through the maze of shops and stalls. We definitely didn't want to lose her in that place!

Finding a textile shop full of clothing fabric, Bani told us to sit and immediately some men started pulling out 3 piece salwar camis packages of fabric with all kinds of designs and colors! At the first shop I found a turquoise salwar camis and the boys found lungis for themselves. Salwar, I learned is the pants part of the outfit and the camis is the shirt/dress and the orna is the scarf. A lungi is a skirt-type piece of fabric sewed like a tube traditionally worn by men. You step into the middle of the tube and tie it around your waiste.

Looking for clothes with all of their fabric in the many shops that afternoon was a bit overwhelming, but definitely a good experience. I felt bad dragging Logan and Devin through all the shops and my slow decision-making trying to find designs and colors of camis' I liked. For girls, finding clothes is quite the process. First, you have to find fabric with designs and colors you like. Then, you take it to a tailor for him to make it to your size, but even then you have to decide how long the pants, sleeves, and dress are and what kind of neck line design you want cut into it. Do you want an elastic or string waiste band? Do you want cuffs? Oh my, in America, if you are a consumer of commercial clothing merchandise, you are limited by the store and their options. The shirts and pants are already made and all you have to do is pick out your size. ALthough, I do like how my clothes here are made just to fit me.

All in all, shopping in Hili was quite the experience. A lot of people stared at us white kids, but when three white kids are in the heart of Asia I can't really blame them for doing so. We are a rare species around here. We had great fun saying that we were all Canadian when shop owners would ask where we were from. It was better to say that especially with all of the Islamic unrest recently against Americans and it's true, we are all citizens of Cananda.


-I filled out an application for my visa in hopes of getting a 3 month extension on it, so I can stay the whole 6 months. I'm praying it goes through.

-The weather is cooling down! I laughed when I walked outside one morning to find all the girls with their pants on undeneath their dresses. It was a perfectly sunny day, but they were cold... hehe.

-Taking a trip to Nepal on Wednesday for 8 days. My current visa requires me to leave the country every 30 days.

-Bangladesh is starting to feel like home! I love all of the people who work here and of course the children make every day a new discovery!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Black Milk Tea

Lying in my hammock reading Kate Braestrup's Here if You Need Me, I glance up at the clotheslined pictures hanging between the windows. Illumined by my head lamp I see the outlined features of people and places I home. A fact pops into my mind: I'm not there. And you know what? That's okay. I chose to be here and I am choosing still to be here; present. Life is different. Much different, but that doesn't mean it's not a good life. Stating this is a fact spoken from choice. God's will, my choice.

Earlier today I had an "American day." The children had been busy all morning doing their chores then eating lunch and napping. I spoke with Lisa and my family which was SO good! After nap time  I wandered outside to embrace my Bangladeshi day. As I weaved my way through the courtyard filled with kids I was asked several times, "Can we play the banana game tonight?" I brought Bananagrams with me and taught the older girls the night before how to play. Apparently word had spread about this new phenomenon.

Reaching the kitchen I found Shathi, our cook, making chapatis for my table-for-one dinner since the Waid's had gone to Dhaka this morning and wouldn't be back until Thursday. I told Shathi not to worry about me, because I would happily eat with the children, but she insisted I eat some chapatis which then turned into potatoes, honey, Nutella, an apple, and finally a piece of homemade cake. Oh my! You really can't talk Shathi out of cooking no matter how hard you try.

Finishing my suppose-to-be "snack", Shathi asked if I would like some tea she was making for herself. I eagerly consented that I would love some (I've discovered anything Shathi makes is good) as long as she agreed to sit down and drink it with me. She agreed, but said we should go outside and sit. Following her around the back of the kitchen area we sat on a table made of planks and looked out over the fields of rice stretching to the horizon. This was her place. We talked about the beauty of the scenery, our families, and finally she expressed this, "Kenzie, you are like a daughter or sister to me." I sat in shocked silence counting the days in my head that I had been in the country. The number was 10. Ten days I had been in this country and had had only a few conversations with Shathi outside of her cooking area.

Shyly I asked, "Does everyone in this country think this way about people who simply just enter their lives?"

"Yes," she replied, "people are so important."

God bless a culture who lives by this statement! My mind was blown sitting there on a few planks facing a rice field talking to a woman beautifully marked by years of wisdom that shone through in her words. When you are speaking with someone whose first language isn't yours, you pick your words out with care. Smiling at her I said, "I like that a lot."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Freedom Fighter

Sweaty little hands grip mine as I walk along a brick-paved road which serves as a bridge through the endless sea of rice patties that lap in the wind on either side of the pathway. We are off to visit the "Freedom Fighter"! Danny and Joseph walk on either side of me as Metali, Joshua, and Mr. Waid follow behind. We pass baby goats and village children playing soccer, a man who sells tin bowls riding by on his bicycle, a tiny tea shop, and beautifully constructed mud huts of which one belongs to the Freedom Fighter. Single-file we enter this house of the hero. Ducking into a dimly lit room a man lays on a bed watching an Indian TV show. It is the Freedom Fighter. He tells me he is happy to meet me and proceeds to tell me why he is called the Freedom Fighter. He fought in the revolution when Bangladesh use to be called East Pakistan in 1971 and helped gain Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. I look at his walls which are covered with pictures of the president. Bangladesh's president among pictures of Hindu gods. According to his walls they were successful in gaining freedom. Mr. Waid says the Freedom Fighter believes in Jesus. As I sat there listening to him talk to Mr. Waid I could tell he liked Mr. Waid a lot. He motioned for me to come closer, holding my hand he says, "This man should have the Nobel Peace Prize for what he has done in our community." I am touched by how this half-paralyzed man recognizes and accepts the impact of Christians in his village. We prayed with the Freedom Fighter before ducking back out into the sunlight and his last words to us were, "May God bless you in your work."

A Day With The Boys

October 11, 2012

Isaac playing with his cars.
On my way back to my room once I was done teaching today I glanced in on the little boys room and found their caregiver, Meloti, asleep on the bed and the boys running around with their shirts off and of course Nathan was the opposite and had no pants always. I whispered to them to put their clothes on and come outside. I took them into the courtyard with a bag full of their cars and sat them down on the cement pathway to play. It was the perfect time, mid-afternoon and the rest of the children were still in school. They giggled and made car sounds with their voices. Isaac sat quietly on the cement playing with his car while Jacob babbled on in the only way he knows how with high-pitched exclamations made in Bangla with that cheeky grin of his. Nathan and Levi were constantly coming over to me to show me their cars while Jamie and Noah sat off to the side and vroomed their cars along the sidewalk towards the other boys. This age for boys is my favorite (2-5); they are happy to play with simple things or just sit on your lap and they listen very well (at least these boys do, except Nathan can never manage to keep his pants on for an entire afternoon...haha).

After we put the cars away, Jacob and Isaac grabbed my hands and as always Levi came running up wanting to hold onto me as well, so i scooped him up onto my shoulders as he squealed with delight and took the boys on a walk around the campus to see the cows and the kitchen ladies cutting garlic.
Levi always reminds me of a little frog when he sits like this.

Sitting between Isaac and Jacob during dinner, I noticed that while Jacob was happily chowing down on his 2nd bowl of curry and rice, Isaac had hardly touched his. Meloti told me Isaac doesn't like curry very much. This was a new concept to me: a Bengali who doesn't like curry, that's a shocker! Filling Isaac's bowl with white rice, he began to eat. I sat back down and watched the other boys eat. Even when he is sitting cross-legged, Levi has perfect posture when he eats. Nathan zones out when given food and Jamie eats so fast! Noah has to be reminded to keep eating and Jacob is the consistent mouth-shoveler while mid-bite trying to teach me Bangla words for food even though he doesn't know very much English! What a character! And he is only 5 years old!

These little boys are so easy to be around. Their relationship with me doesn't hinge on the facts of how much I talk to them or how much time is spent with them. All they want from me is to hold them in my lap whenever I am around. Again, they strike me with little pictures of Jesus' character and his unconditional (and I'm using this in its fullest sense) love for us and how he just wants to be with us.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kenzie Teacher

October 10, 2012

My hands are black with stains from smudging whiteboards and writing out stories for the kindergartners to learn sight-reading on big easel sized paper. Kakoli, a 3rd grader, ran up to me and reached for my hand to hold as I walked out of the 1st grade classroom and asked with a confused face, "Teacher, why are your hands so dirty?"

"I've been using them to teach," I replied.

"Oh, well you should come to our bathroom and I will help you wash them!"

Yes, I am now called Kenzie Teacher. I spend a great deal of my day reading Dick and Jane books. I help teach English and math to kindergarten and 1st grade and art to all of the grades on Fridays. I also teach an English conversational class to the 4th graders after school. I don't think they are too excited about this class, especially since it is taking 30 minutes out of their work/play time and we are learning about manners: please, thank you, informal and formal greetings, and "table" manners (even though they eat on a mat and not at a table). I told them their homework this week was to say please and thank you to their room mothers when they were served their dinner. Now, I hear them saying it all over the place in their afternoon sewing class, breakfast, lunch, dinner, to me if they want to hold or touch something of mine. I am so amazed and delighted with their attentiveness to saying these words at the appropriate times, especially when I or someone else least expects it. Here in Bangladesh they don't use these types of words very often. I figured this out within the first couple of days when I would say "donobahd" (Bangla for "thank you") to someone and they would just look at me with a blank or slightly confused look on their face. Also, trying to teach the children in the classroom to be silent and listen while someone else is talking has been a challenge. I don't think their teachers have spent a lot of time or care with this skill, but I'm hoping they will improve as I am trying to implement the "hands up, mouths shut" rule from camp.

Even though I am the teacher, I feel as though I am the one learning the most. Figuring out how to teach the KG class to sound out their alphabet and keeping the 4th graders entertained and focused throughout the whole class period is a challenge, but it's a learning experience for sure. Learning these different things has helped me to see the children's world from their perspective:  a perspective of simplicity. I'm thankful for this opportunity to grow into a life of simplicity.


October 8, 2012

My heart is gone. It is officially stolen as of today by these children. Their bashful smiles is what gets me every time. During worship when I am leading guitar I try to make eye contact with a few of the smaller children and give them a smile and they first look down then they look up and reflect my expression with a small hint of shyness in their eyes. Or, when a group of the older children are gathered around me as I sit on the edge of the tree planter, each one trying to hold onto part of my hand or arms, I will look into each of their faces and give them the biggest smile I can muster and they giggle and reflect my expression in return. Oh! My heart is gone forever! The younger girls love to come and put their hands over my eyes while I try to pick them up and tickle them which causes them to scream and giggle with abandonment. I like to imagine these are the sounds that will fill heaven one day. Bangla Hope feels like a little piece of heaven. Not everything here is perfect or exactly how it should be, but there are definitely large pockets of goodness here and I enjoy living here and experiencing these little humans and their unique characteristics. Each day is a new day to discover and love.

Ants In My Pants!

October 10, 2012

I had just gone to my happy place of dreams and rest when I felt something crawling up my legs. I brushed off the feeling as just another bug. There are tons of bugs here! Mr. Waid has a saying: if you think there is something crawling on you, there probably is. Blatantly, I ignored this thought as I pressed harder toward dreamland. Then all of a sudden I felt it. Little balls of fire erupted in various places all along my legs. I sat up straight and grabbed my headlamp to look under my sheets and there they were. Little monsters wearing red: ants. Ugh. The ants had been everywhere in my room and apartment up to this point, but never in the sacred space of my bed and they decided to choose this "opportune" moment of peaceful sleep to enter into it. Oh! I was not happy. Instead of picking each one out one by one and killing them (which I so badly wanted to do), I rippped off my sheets and threw them across the room. Going to the beareau in the front of the apartment I was thankful it possessed a plethora of sheets and I plucked a clean set of green, deciding against the red ones in defiance of the little monster's uniforms, and stretched them across my bare bed. "Tomorrow is the day I find bug spray and end this little charade once and for all," I schemed to myself. You see, those little monsters had already found their way into my sealed ziplock bag of dark chocolate and had feasted on my Ghiradeli bar. Violating two of my sacred possessions was enough! Lesson one learned of being a SM: always, always, ALWAYS bring bug spray with you. Lesson two: put your dark chocolate in something more secure than a ziplock a bear canister!

Lifeguarding in an Irrigation Ditch

October 7, 2012

Sunbeams glisten through the banana tree leaves sending a spray of light on the dropplets of water flying through the air as children giggle with delight from the splashes of water washing their sweaty little faces clean. I'm standing in an irrigation ditch on the far side of the campus with 20 or so kids trying to splash me in the face as I pour buckets of water over them. In this moment, for maybe the first time since I have gotten here, I catch myself pausing and taking it all in: the sun, the refreshing water washing over my feet, and the children's faces filled with pure joy. "Everyone should have an irrigation ditch to play in at home if it makes little and big humans alike this full of joy!" I think to myself. The boys are slinding head first on  their tummies down the ditch as the girls suds-up their hair with shampoo as I pour a shower of cool water over their smiling faces to rinse their hair out. What a way to take a bath! "Kengie Teacher, watch me swim!" (In all of the notes I've received, they all spell my name with a "g" instead of a "z".)

God is good. Despite the awful circumstances that brought many of these children to the orphanage, the kids are experiencing something good even still. They are rich, but not in material items. They don't have much to play with such as toys, but watching them spend 30 minutes in a ditch, playing with buckets of water with each other is such a beautiful connection of humans just being, existing, dwelling together. So, today I'm thanking God for irrigation ditches, because I found joy connecting with children in a new and simple way.

On My Own

October 6, 2012

It's 6:30am and my feet hit the tile floor and the sound sends a small echo across the room. I look around and I realize something new. I am alone. Silently I walk over to my desk and sit. I look. I watch. I listen. From my window I can see ripples being made in the pond below as villagers wash their cookware. And out of the window to my left I can hear the younger children singing their breakfast prayer song. So, really I am not alone. I live among a new people, a new way of life. All I have to do is walk outside the door of my two bedroom apartment and live and learn. But here at my desk, I have the opportunity to converse and listen to my Savior in solitude. And I am thankful. Don't get me wrong, I've only been here two days and life is not all roses. I do struggle with the fact that I am the only student missionary here and it is hard to sit down and try to connect with my Savior. But, I am trying. The people here are very encouraging and all we have to do is smile at each other and we connect despite the language barriers. Thank you Jesus for the ability to smile otherwise I wouldn't know where to start.

since it was Sabbath, I got to spend all day with the children. I went to the 4th grade Sabbath school class and helped lead out in songs and Bible trivia. You should hear these kids sing! They have such strong voices for their little bodies. After the kids had their lunch and naptime, I carried my guitar out to the courtyard and instantly was surrounded by at least 20 children all wanting me to teach them a new song. And, yes, for those of you who had mentioned it, I did feel a little bit like Maria from the Sound of Music. We played games for the rest of the day and whenever I stopped to rest I was surrounded by kids either climbing all over me or prying for a spot in my lap or reaching for one of my fingers to hold onto.

After sundown, all of the children gathered in the cafeteria to close the Sabbath then watch a movie. I sat down on the edge of the mat and two of the littler boys, Jacob and Levi, crawled into my lap and instead of fighting over who could sit there, Jacob looked up at me and gave me a huge, cheeky smile and reached his arm around Levi's shoulders and just sat there calmly in my lap embracing his "brother". And my heart did two things: first, it melted. Second, it experienced a testimony of love. All day these kids had been clamoring for my full attention, my acceptance of them, my love. God must be trying so hard to do the same for my response to Him and when I let Him have my full, undivided attention all He wants to do is to be with me; put His arm around me and sit calmly. I'm praying each day that each time a child wants me to hold him/her I will remember Jesus and his eagerness to love me and to view each child with the knowledge that they have been born into a broken world and what they crave most is love - bottom line. We're not all that different: orphans and non-orphans. Being part of the human race we all crave the same thing and I am glad I believe in a God who in the essence of His being is love.

First Impressions

Oct. 5, 2012

"Kenzie, Kenzie, Kenzie!" My name is yelled across the yard as I walk by the cafeteria. Pitter, patter go the little foot steps as tiny brown fingers clammer for my open palms and big brown eyes look up into mine. I smile as I look down and into those beautiful faces; in awe how these little beings were made from the same substance I am: dust. The once eager faces turn bashful as they return my expression and look away, but ever so slowly those big brown eyes meet mine again. I don't know if my name has ever been said more times in one day or by more adorable voices. Beauty from dust.

During the 36 hours it took to get to Bangla Hope one phrase kept coming to mind as I travelled deeper and deeper into Asia, "We're no longer in Kansas, Toto." It's true, I'm not. As I look out my window all I can see are flat, fluorecscent green rice patties dotted with beautiful trees accompanied by a few farmers here and there and villagers walking through the patties to their homes. I hear children laughing and the dinner bell being rung for the older children to go eat and plop, yes, a gecko just fell from the ceiling. Yep, definitely not in Kansas.

I arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh yesterday around 10:30pm where the Waids and I stayed the night at an Adventist-run dental clinic where I met Bani who works in the clinic on the Bangla Hope campus. After about 3 hours of sleep I was awakened and informed that we would be leaving at 4:30am to travel to the orphanage, because it would be safer to travel through Dhaka during the 5:00 hour when the Muslims would all be saying their morning prayers. As I walked outside to load into the van, I heard the Muslim recording of their call to prayer over the loud speaker on the street. Climbing into the van I knew this was going to be an experience. I wasn't disappointed. Driving on the left-side while constantly trying to pass people on the right on a two-lane road while dodging goats and people was kinda fun. Our driver, Joseph, is amazing and I didn't feel nervous at all with him at the wheel. But, I have to tell you the roads are beautiful! Beautiful green trees line the edges and the branches create a tunnel for us to drive under. (The main highways were actually in better condition than College Avenue.)

Six hours later we pulled into the campus gate which was decorated with signs and flags welcoming the Waid's home. As I climbed out of the car and looked at all of the faces of those precious children I became a bit shy. But after Bani did a little coaxing, I walked over and started shaking their hands and laughing at the way they became equally as shy when I smiled at them. I don't cry very often, especially when I am happy, but I let tears of joy roll down my face as a small group of children hovered around me and reached for my hands. They wanted to know if I knew Lisa and Kelsey and Chantel Teacher. And after I said "yes", Metali (one of the older girls) told me we could defintely be friends then. Listening to their voices sing during vespers as one of the girls climbed into my lap and gave me the biggest smile it hit me full on that I am here in Bangladesh only by an act of God. I'm still wondering how I even got here in the first place or why, but that's the interesting part. The mystery I have yet to discover when I walk beside God.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Packing. It's something I really enjoy doing. Organizing and putting together the puzzle pieces of all the items you are trying to fit in in the most consolidated way in order for you to travel effectively, the end result is extremely satisfying. It's a problem that can be solved. Not to mention the anticipation that goes along with the whole concept of packing: getting to experience something different and out of your comfort zone. I guess what I really like about packing is the feeling of anticipation.

Two  days. Forty-eight hours and I will be on my jolly way to PDX and then on to San Francisco where the wheels of a large Boeing 777 will leave this continent and land me in Singapore for a glimpse of its radiance then drop me smack-dab in the middle of my new home: Bangladesh. Thoughts going on in my head right now (besides obvious anticipation): wonder, excitement to see some beautiful brown-eyed children, contentment in God's existence in this world (a world I have yet to experience), and reality checks; although my bags are packed, my brain doesn't really think I'm actually going to leave. People have asked me if I am nervous. Honestly, no. Not yet at least. I am more humbled than I am nervous. Humbled by God giving me this opportunity, all of your support, and the vulnerability of being in a new place.

Updates since I last blogged:
-Karli and Rachael are not able to come and teach at Bangla Hope. God has called them to serve elsewhere and I can't wait to find out what He has in store for them!
-Mine and Mrs. Waid's current visa expires in December, so I'm talking to Jesus a lot lately about that. Hoping we can get a new one or have ours extended. Mr. and Mrs. Waid feel confident that we can get it worked out when we enter the country.

Here is my mailing address:
Mackenzie Thompson
Village: Hazrapur, Post Office: Mazina (Uchai)
Upozila: Panchbibi
District: Joypurhat

I will try to keep this blog updated fairly often, so feel free to check back every once in awhile. The next time you will hear from me I will be in Bangladesh! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beauty From Doubts

"Well, we were only planning to take two of, which one of you doesn't want to go?" My heart sank when I heard these words. Rachael Coon, Karli Fredrickson, and I had just finished eating supper at the Waid's house, the founders of Bangla Hope Orphanage, and were discussing the possibility of us three going with them to teach at the orphanage in October when mid-way through our conversation Mrs. Waid had said these words. The three of us looked at each other dumbfounded and then turned and stared back at Mr. and Mrs. Waid wondering if there was a punch-line coming. To our greatest delight Mrs. Waid looked back at us and said, "Of course we couldn't do that and choose and since you all want to teach we're going to take all three of you!" A smile instantly lit up my face as I heard Rachael let out an excited squeal and Karli breathed a sigh of relief. I don't think we ever stopped smiling the rest of the night. I still haven't. Before I knew it we were talking about dates and a list of items to pack and classes we were going to be teaching! In 5 months I will be on a plane bound for 126 beautiful brown-eyed kids who live in a small country called Bangladesh!

God is so good! He has taken my hand and showed me His plan for the next year of my life. I've always wanted to be a student missionary, but I never thought I would be doing it after my first year of college or be going to an orphanage. I never thought God would give me an unignorable desire to serve in this way at this time in my life, but He has. And I know it is Him taking me by the hand on this journey, because I asked God to take away the desire if it wasn't in His will, but He hasn't taken it away. Hosanna to the God of surprises and wonders! Hosanna to the One who makes beauty from dust and beauty from my doubts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beautiful Things

Bangladesh is surrounded by India and Burma
What is the ninth largest country in terms of population; containing 165 million people where there is an orphanage with 100+ beautiful brown-eyed children? Bangladesh. Two weeks ago I went into the Student Missions office and told Jeanne I was ready to make my decision...well 'ready' may not be the most accurate word, but I knew God would either open this door wide or close it. After I walked out of the SM office that day I had a song in my heart that could only come from God: "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus". There is nothing so assuring and peace-filling as having a song in your heart that can only be placed there by the One who created you. Beautiful things. I experience joy in my heart when I think about spending 6+ months with all of those Bengali children! I have never been so excited in my life for anything! Also last week I got to meet two other girls who are wanting to go to Bangladesh as well and again all of us were filled with excitement and joy as we connected over the fact that we might get to experience this year of service together! We take a missions class together and as class ended last Friday we decided to join hands and pray for God's will to be done in our lives and the one's we are preparing to serve; whether we go together or a part or not at all. Beautiful things. Now the three of us are waiting to interview with the directors of the orphanage before we can officially reserve this as our call. Thank you for supporting me through this next experience in my life. Pray for God's will to be done and for the desires of our hearts to be His alone. This is my prayer.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Next Adventure

I am excited to share with you all in this adventure that God is leading me on now and will continue to as I prepare to be a student missionary in the coming months. Currently, I do not know exactly where I will be serving, but I do know that I will be serving as a teacher and/or working in an orphanage. This week the director of Student Missions, Jeanne Vories, and I began discussing possible locations and types of positions. As we continue to discuss these details and discover God's leading, I will be sure to let you all know when we officially decide on a location and position.

 I am beyond excited about this new opportunity of serving others in another country and culture! I feel I am ready to embrace the challenge of being stretched in ways I have never been challenged before. I am trusting in Jesus that He will give me His eyes as I live among a new culture and the understanding I am not going to change people by my actions alone, but Jesus is going to change them through His ways and love and hopefully He will change me from the inside-out too. This is my prayer. God bless you all and thank you for supporting me in this next chapter of my life.