Kenya - Summer 18
“Jambo! (Hello!)” was the first of many Swahili words that communication professor Dr. David Dixon taught the group students he took to Kenya this J-term, one of whom was public relations and psychology major Alli Williams (the author of this article).
Dixon has deep roots in Kenya. His parents who were missionaries moved their family to the country when Dixon was in first grade. Dixon and his brothers attended a school for missionary children in Kijabe, Rift Valley Academy, where he graduated before coming back to the states to attend Messiah for college. With many friends and family still living in the area, Kenya still feels like home to Dixon and he continues to go back every few years.
Students who traveled with Dixon and his wife and coleader, Robin, had the opportunity to experience the broad Kenyan culture through learning about Christianity in Kenya. Dixon has taught intercultural communication at Messiah, and his own research includes study of media use in mission history.
Most of the trip was spent working with an organization called Rift Valley Fellowship. RVF is a nonprofit organization located in Maai Mahiu, a town known for poverty and prostitution. RVF reaches out to the local community in a variety of ways. It functions as a church and provides a meal each week for the church attendees, hosts meetings for the community throughout the week, and holds game days every Saturday for the children of the town. Additionally, RVF works to bring children off the streets of Maai Mahiu through providing housing, meals, and schooling for the children in hopes of guiding their lives away from prostitution.
Dixon became connected with RVF because of his childhood friend Esther Munji. Esther along with her husband Isaac started the organization to spread God’s love in their community. “As their ministry in Maai Mahiu got started, there was an opportunity to connect students with Kenyans in a way that went far beyond the tourist experience, but also hopefully avoided some of the pitfalls of short-term missions,” Dixon said. “It proved to be a powerful experience for some students, so when I came to Messiah it made sense to share that opportunity here.”
“The time spent with RVF was something I never expected in a school trip,” said Caleb Clawson, a senior psychology major. “Being able to get to know a church, the people within that church and walking alongside them and their mission was an incredible experience. Being at Lulu’s place [RVF’s home for the girls of Maai Mahiu] with the boys and girls I felt was the real reason we were there. To play alongside and get to know these children and show them God’s love was better than any safari.”
In addition to working with RVF, students had the opportunity to tour the town of Kijabe, spend time with students from the local Bible college, visit friends and family of Dr. Dixon and visit the CURE hospital (https://cure.org/2017/12/cure-kenyas-3-d-printing-advantage/). The trip concluded with an incredible safari to see wildlife in Masai Mara.
For anyone looking to go on a J-term cross cultural in the next couple of years, I highly recommend going to Kenya! This trip brings communication, Christianity and culture together for an amazing experience. Interacting with the locals put my communication skills and classroom knowledge to the test and allowed me to grow as a better communicator. Also, learning to navigate through a new culture was such a beneficial experience that opened my eyes and my mind to new perspectives.
If you are interested in hearing more about the trip, the group wrote a blog every day highlighting their experiences which you can read here: https://kenya2018trip.wordpress.com/
If you go to Kenya you will not regret it. The land is beautiful, the people are wonderful and you will have an experience like no other.
– Alli Williams ’19
The J-term cross cultural group consisted of Annalise Armstrong (sophomore, biology major), Lindsay Chabak (junior, education major), Caleb Clawson (senior, psychology major), Kenzie Johnson (senior, HDFS major), Madeline Klosko (junior, accounting major), Kara Leaman (sophomore, pre-occupational therapy major), Becca Lokos (junior, history major), Lauren Marshall (senior, accounting major), David Mosemann (junior, pre-physical therapy major), Megan Pendergast (junior, nursing major) and Alli Williams (junior, public relations and psychology major).