Pastor Javon Learned about “African Time” & the Importance of Relationships

Reflection from Rev. Javen Swanson who serves as Associate Pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

One of the things I was told about beforehand but couldn’t fully comprehend until I had spent some time in Kenya was the concept of “African time.” Our trip leaders encouraged us before we left to keep an open mind and to go with the flow; we were taught that Kenyans have a more relaxed relationship with time.
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Pastor Javon Swanson with Daylight Students

Once we arrived in Kenya we discovered just exactly what that meant: Those of us from America who are so used to organizing our lives around our calendars and keeping a close eye on our watches spent a lot of time confused and wondering what was going on. No class period ever began “on time.”

The 30-minute mid-morning break for tea always lingered well beyond the time allotted for it. Teachers ended lessons when the lessons were done. And nobody at Daylight School thought twice about canceling an entire afternoon of classes to make time for different kinds of activities that gave the American visitors an opportunity to really get to know the Kenyan students.

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Mid-morning porridge and tea break

At the end of the day, that’s really what “African time” is about: It’s about relationships. Some have said Africans have more of an “emotional time consciousness” that is different from our Western “mechanical time consciousness.” There’s more of an emphasis on the personal interactions happening in the present than on strict adherence to a schedule.

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Most of the time, those 30-minute mid-morning tea breaks went longer than planned because Americans and Kenyans were sitting together having good conversations, and in that moment, those good conversations mattered more than the class schedule.

School lessons were postponed to create opportunities for Americans and Kenyans to spend time together, because in that culture, relationships take priority.

The sad takeaway for me was that we Americans often cut short those most important moments because we have busy schedules to keep. Too often we miss the amazing things happening right before our eyes because we’re determined to play out the agenda we had planned ahead of time. We’re so certain we know how things are supposed to go that we don’t even notice when something awesome and unexpected is happening right in front of us now. – Pastor Javon Swanson

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Pastor Lawrence Expanded His “Tribe” & Our Students Learn There Are Black Americans

Earlier this month I had the honor of traveling on a service learning trip to Daylight Center and School in Kenya with 17 other members of my congregation and surrounding community. The trip changed my life and will forever influence how I am a pastor.

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Pastor Lawrence Richardson with Joshua Kimpur

Each American was paired with a Kenyan educator or leader, and it was the expectation that we assist them with their classes, service projects, or school duties for the week. In addition to there being 18 of us, I was the only African American. From the onset, Kenyan children and adults were caught off guard by the realization that there are Black people in different places around the world.

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Pastor Lawrence with Daylight Students at Recess

At Daylight, there is Religious Education, Ethics and History lessons are woven throughout their English, Swahili, Math, Physical Education, Political Science and Social Studies classes. Spiritual practices and reverence for God contribute to their sense of motivation and is spoken about openly, and the expectation that it takes a literal village to raise a child is a cooperative way of living that has dramatically altered their community and way of life. Students and teachers alike seem grounded in a mutual understanding of and commitment to a shared identity.

The school is time and again fulfilling its mission, which is to “educate a new generation of leaders to serve and transform their communities and inspire sustainable livelihood.”

The vision for Daylight was palpable all around the surrounding neighborhood and greeted us each day as we arrived. The energy could be felt through the morning assembly and flag ceremony, the countless hours of study and programs, the abundance of laughter and smiles, meal times, physical fitness exercises, and the commitment modeled by staff and teachers.

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Pastor Lawrence Speaking at the Weekly Monday Morning School Assembly 

Daylight Center and School is located on a beautiful plot of land in the nomadic countryside of Kenya. The surrounding desert is home to many tribes who would otherwise have no access to education and couldn’t afford to travel to more developed parts of the country, so the existence of Daylight is integral to the future sustainability of surrounding tribes. Everyone in the community knows what Daylight is and what happens there, and is committed to the mission of the school because of what it means for their future.

This observation leads me to wonder how we might prioritize each person from our community and neighborhood as partners belonging to a “tribe”, designing education and programming to perpetuate and strengthen our understanding of and commitment to a shared identity.

My time serving and learning in Kenya was rich and deeply transformative. The thousands of pictures, dozens of journal entries, and hours of video can’t even begin to capture how this experience has been for my life and ministry. I am deeply grateful.

Please click here to read the full text of this brilliant article on Center For Progressive Renewal. Pastor Lawrence’s explores his experience being black American in Kenya and the lessons he took home for his church leadership style.

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New Swing Set, Volleyball and Handball Courts at Daylight!

Daylight has a new swing set, volleyball and handball court! And as you can see, they are drawing big crowds of excited students.
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Before school, during morning snack, recess and after school the swings are full of smiling students. On the first day, students lined up at the swing set and counted “1, 2, 3!” making sure each new student got 3 swings to “try it out.”  By the end of the week, students were counting out 20 swings and really getting some nice air!swings1The new play equipment was constructed in July by a joint effort from our Minneapolis team, Kenyan builders, and the staff at Daylight.  The pipes were bought by John, Peter, Mike, and Kurt from a local hardware store in Kapenguria, Kenya. swing
Then back to Daylight, where the pipes were assembled with the help of Daylight US Board Member Travis Collins and a Kenyan Volunteer Boni.
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Daylight Pastor John and Kurt worked together to dig the posts and hand mix the cement.
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Of course the builders had to “test” the swings.
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Then the volleyball court was finished and the net was hung. swing 9
And soon the boys had two very tall and very talented 8th grade girls to contend with at the nets!
swing 8Finally, the handball court was completed. Kurt watched as the keeper got distracted by the camera and missed the incoming goal.swings 3
Grace and her teacher Jonathan were super excited about all the new equipment! Grace said, “I love volleyball with my teachers and my girl friends. It’s especially fun with all the new equipment!”swing 10Thank you to our Minneapolis team, our Kenyan builders and volunteers, and to you for making Daylight school possible!

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We Now Have 120 Dormitory Beds for Students at Daylight!

We are so excited that we have recently expanded our dormitories to allow for 120 students to study and stay overnight at Daylight!SLB_1590In Kenya, it is common for schools to have dormitories for students who live too far away to travel to and from school each day.

Daylight educates children from a massive rural area. Some of our students are able to walk (or get a taxi) to school each day. But many of our students’ families live too far away to commute. Some of our students are from nomadic communities. These nomadic communities travel a large region with their cows, and there are often no school options in those regions. Others have families that live more than a day’s drive away. Some students have lost their families due to sickness or tribal violence.

Daylight provides a safe and fun overnight option for our boarding students. Our students love staying in the dorms with their friends and dorm hosts (teachers and staff who oversee our dormitories). It feels a lot like American summer camp!

The expansion of our dorms to 120 beds was made possible by the generosity of our Kenyan and American partners working together.SLB_1591The dorms were constructed over the last few years and this year bunk beds were put in all three dorms.

This spring a team from Autumn Ridge church in Rochester constructed the wooden bunks for the elementary school boys dorm. They went with our Kenya builders to the lumber yard.timberGot the lumber ready outside the beautiful green dorms!SLB_1507Put them together one by one!SLB_1780Until the dorm was filled with new bunks!SLB_1741These dormitories were made possible by the generosity of our Kenyan and American partners: Daylight US donors, Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester, Lynnhurst UCC Church in Minneapolis, First Presbyterian in Stillwater, and Kenyan contractors and community members who donated materials and labor!SLB_1505Our students and staff are so grateful for your support. Your generosity helps them educate these future leaders of Kenya!

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Meet Daylight Kenya Board Member Bosco “Strong Wind” Loris

We have an amazing Kenyan board of directors that oversees the school, development work, staffing, and long term vision for Daylight Center and School. One of our longest serving board members is Bosco Loris. He lives near our village school of Daylight Alale. “I went to school through high school, and then I came back to run the Daylight’s school in Alale village. To give kids in my village the opportunities I had.” In the picture below, Bosco is standing outside the school that he helped make with community members. It was made with local materials of mud, sticks, and clay.

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“I was named ‘Strong Wind’ because of the strong wind on top of that mountain,” Bosco explains alongside Daylight Teacher, Kach.

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“When the British Colonialists came to our village they put a British flag on top of that mountain. But when the British left, their flag blew away. It was a sign that nature is more powerful than any human power. So when I was a young man I climbed to the top of the mountain. But the wind blew me over!” Bosco laughed. “And so people started calling me strong wind.”

Bosco’s son, Nicolas, studies at Daylight primary school in Alale. “My hope for Nicholas and all the kids is for them to be educated so they can get jobs. So they can help themselves and their parents and earn money for their future.”

34 - Bosco 3“I want my boys to get married, get jobs, so they can send money home to provide for me and my wife when we are old,” Bosco smiles.

Thank you for supporting Bosco, Kach, Nicholas and all the young people who study at Daylight. They are working to make a bright future for their family and their community.

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