The Painful Path of a Miscarriage.

Last week we had the heartbreaking experience of a miscarriage.

I now understand the depth of sorrow that comes alongside losing a baby before getting to hold them in my arms. Before now, I didn’t quite get it…I wasn’t sure how to comfort or mourn with friends who had miscarriages. The immediate and intense connection a mom feels upon knowing there’s a baby growing inside her; The joy that is stripped away and replaced with grief; The physical pain that is a constant reminder of loss…all of these being hardships that a miscarriage brings.

We had just found out we were pregnant the week before and planned on telling our families over FaceTime on Thanksgiving. We were so excited and I even let the secret slip to a few friends here in Nairobi.

On Monday I felt weird all day. I struggled through a staff meeting, trying to dismiss my pain as normal. On the way home, the pain intensified, so we changed plans and headed straight to the hospital. It was 5:30pm, in the heart of Nairobi rush hour. It took us a grueling 45 minutes to drive the 4.4 miles from our meeting location to the Emergency Room.

After pain meds and an ultrasound, it was determined that I actually had an “ectopic pregnancy.” The baby was healthy, just implanted in the wrong place, making it both impossible for growth and dangerous for my health. We had two options: remove the baby through surgery, or stop him/her from growing via Chemotherapy. Either way, it was ultimately one difficult choice: to end the pregnancy.

With the doctor’s recommendation, we chose Chemotherapy. I was admitted that night and given the medicine, and was monitored throughout the night and next day. If the chemo doesn’t work, surgery is the back up plan. (We find out this week if it worked). The meds make me really tired and a bit nauseous…again, reminders of the heartbreak we are walking through.

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Flowers a sweet friend sent us after finding out about our loss.

I am still mourning the loss of our baby. In a way, I think sharing our story here helps heal my heart. We are praying for God to guide us in how to grieve and how to move forward. It’s times like these that makes the distance from our families most difficult. However, we are thankful for our Nairobi friends and community who have comforted us through hospital visits, meals and prayer.

Continue to pray for us as we process our loss and lean on the Lord, who is faithful, loves us and hears our cries.

– Shanna

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.                 

– 2nd Corinthians 1:3-5 

 

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Visiting Samuel

Four years ago, soon after getting married, we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International.

After looking through many photos of sweet children from around the world, we signed up to sponsor 7 year old Samuel. His home was in Kenya, and of course that connected us. His big brown eyes, along with the Holy Spirit tugging on our hearts, drew us in!

Over the past four years, we’ve written letters and sent photographs. It’s been harder to send letters since our move to Kenya, as we have few chances to receive our US mail throughout the year, but we still keep in touch. Samuel has grown over the years and has done well in school and in making friendships. Samuel’s photo hangs on our fridge door – reminding us to pray for him and his family often.

We hoped one day we would get the chance to visit Samuel and meet him in person – what a privilege it would be!

Our hopes turned into reality this week, as we took a couple of days off work and drove 3 hours out of Nairobi to a town called Njoro. There, we met with the local Compassion staff and finally hugged Samuel!

He is such a sweet boy. He was very shy – just as starstruck as us, probably – and introduced us to his mother and two baby sisters. He showed us where he enjoys playing football. He and his mom invited us into their home for a visit and then we shared a big Kenyan lunch of ugali, spinach, beef stew and chapati. Samuel was incredibly sweet to our Levi (who was super fussy after missing a couple of naps)….Samuel was so patient and loving, demonstrating what a good brother he is to his sisters.

What a blessing it was to know Samuel and his family on a deeper level, beyond letters. It is amazing that we now live so close to each other. We are so grateful for the opportunity Compassion has given us – without the organization our paths may have never crossed.

We were so impressed with the efficiency, organization and tangible impact Compassion International is having in the area of Njoro. It encouraged us to know that we have partnered with such a terrific organization. If you haven’t signed up to sponsor a child, we urge you to do so….it is such a magnificent way to further the Kingdom of God and be connected with others beyond country borders.

Click here to learn more about Compassion International. 

 

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Sweet Samuel! 

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Meeting the family!
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Squeezing into our Land Cruiser for a ride to Samuel’s house….there’s always room for one more!
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Samuel’s family in their home! 
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Just outside their home, along with some new, friendly neighbors!

 

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Samuel was so good with Levi!

 

 

The New and the Old of Camp Bluesky.

We had the opportunity to serve alongside the leadership team in another summer of Camp Bluesky!

Camp Bluesky is incredibly special to us, beyond simply being the place where we met in 2010. Something about Camp traditions, the atmosphere, the energy… it nearly becomes part of your identity and holds an irreplaceable space in your heart.

Quite a few things have changed since our first summers at Camp Bluesky, and I’ll be the first to admit change is hard, especially when it involves something like summer camp. The traditions of camp somehow burrow roots inside the hearts of campers and counselors alike…so when changes happen, the mournful sting of uprooting is felt.

However, change is also a good thing. Camp Bluesky has grown tremendously over the years – with 2018 being the largest summer ever with over 800 campers! This growth, along with new ideas, new staff and new generations of campers has spurred on healthy adjustments, all while maintaining the same original vision of Camp Bluesky – to bring the Gospel to the youth of Nairobi.

There was a special change this year that Nate and I both got to a part of bringing to camp:

The “Set the Pace” Award

The “Set The Pace” award was created in memory of Bluesky’s founder, Kim Pace…a.k.a. “Mama,” who passed away in January.  It is awarded to a camper, junior counselor or counselor who embodies three core attributes of Kim’s character: leadership, boldness, and passion. We all know Kim was the epitome of these things…especially when it came to Camp! 

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An old, special photo I found of Kim and I hiking in Maasai Land in 2007. 

…and a really cool thing happened during Session 2: Nate was awarded the “Set The Pace” award! What an unexpected honor, as well as a special privilege to remember Kim at camp. We look forward to recognizing future campers, JCs and counselors who exemplify these traits. We also look forward to the idea that Kim will be remembered for years to come at Camp Bluesky.

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Nate teaching “American Football” skill during Session 2. (We don’t have a photo of him receiving the award, so this will do!) 

Along with other changes made this summer, so much of Camp Bluesky has remained the same, even still.

We still sing “You Can’t Ride in my Little Red Wagon.”

We still cheer “BOBO” at the closing ceremony.

We still find gold rocks all over the place.

We still (somehow) have corn on the pizza. Haha.

We still get REALLY COMPETITIVE while playing sock war.

We still march in silence to Summit Fire on Friday nights.

We still get crazy pumped when a camper makes Lion’s Pride.

We still get the privilege to introduce campers to a growing relationship with Jesus! 

 

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Campwide Chumvi vs. Nuru cheer challenge! 
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Kenya and Kili mountain groups escaped the grounds of Camp for a couple of days to go camping and ziplining in the wilderness. 
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Senior Camp gets to adventure out on the High Ropes course each session! 
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Campers are still just as silly and as spirited as ever! 
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Summit Fire Torch Fight….a tradition that will never die! 

 

Supporting Us as Missionaries: Where Does the Money Go?

Hello again…wow, two posts in one month! A record!

We are in the process of raising more financial support, so we can continue the ministry God has called us to here in Nairobi, Kenya.

We want to be transparent and honest with you all about our lives here, and finances are not excluded. Hopefully this blog will explain our needs and our hearts, but if you have any questions, feel free to email us at shannamast@gmail.com or nmast2@gmail.com!

Currently, we are in need of about $250 per month to be in a healthy spot financially and continue ministry. Below are some hypothetical questions that we’ve answered for you!

 

Why do you need more support now?

There’s a few reasons: 

  1. We began living off support when we moved to Nairobi in August 2016. Initially, we had quite a few supporters give “One Time Gifts,” which was super helpful. For the most part, we divided those gifts over the past 24 months to help cover monthly costs. Now, those 24 months are ending. In addition, over the last two years, some supporters have needed to re-adjust their monthly giving.
  2. We had a baby! That may seem like a big one, but we’ve been careful not to spend too much on Levi! (We use cloth diapers, used clothes and toys, etc.) We do have the regular monthly costs of  formula, wipes, doctor appointments, etc. that were not accounted for in our initial support raising in 2016 when it was just the two of us. These monthly costs total to about $150 per month and come out of our budgeted salary. We also have set up a small monthly saving for Levi, that also comes out of our salary.
  3. When we first planned our move to Kenya, we met with Bluesky leaders to estimate a budget to meet our family and ministry needs. Since then, we’ve discovered we slightly underestimated the costs. Now that we’ve had two years in Kenya, we have been able to create a more accurate budget.

What does your support money go towards? 

Salary – Our salary, just like any job, goes towards regular lifestyle expenses such as groceries, furniture, baby needs, savings and other day-to-day things. Our salary is not extravagant at all…it is similar to that of youth directors in the U.S.

Admin Fee – Bluesky, along with most missions organizations, has a monthly administrative fee that covers costs to keep Bluesky running as a non-profit and provides us with administrative and accounting resources.

Housing – We are renting a house that fits our family’s needs but doubles as a location for ministry, since our church does not have a building (it meets on a school campus). Utilities such as water and power are included. Fun fact: we don’t have heat or air conditioning in our home…Nairobi weather is the best!

Medical Insurance – This covers routine medical needs as well as any potential medical emergency we may have. (We are switching providers in August, and it will increase our monthly payments, but will have better coverage. It was a Bluesky-wide mandatory switch.)

Flights to the U.S. every 1-2 years – Flights to the U.S. are fairly expensive, averaging around $1000 per ticket.  We want to honor supporters well, so we plan to visit the U.S. every 1.5 years. These visits allow us to spend time with family, connect with supporters and rejuvenate a bit. (a.k.a. get our Chick-fil-A fix!) Any visits to the U.S. for personal reasons outside of this will come out of our personal salary.

*International Christian Fellowship, our church here in Kenya, is one of our supporters. Along with supporting us, the church also covers ministry costs such as Bible studies and snacks for youth group. On special occasions, we’ve asked donors give towards youth events and scholarships for students. 

 

 

Sometimes I see photos of y’all traveling. Does that come out of your support? 

Firstly, we don’t use supporter money to finance vacations or “extras.” Honestly, as missionaries, we definitely feel this immense pressure to live simply and avoid luxuries such as vacations and little “extras.” However, Nate and I truly love traveling and seeing different cultures. We are even willing to give up other things, like eating out or buying new things to do so! We have traveled a bit since our time in Kenya. Fun fact: traveling in Kenya can be much cheaper than traveling in the U.S, especially as a Kenyan resident!

We save up our salary, just like we would with any job, and travel on the money we’ve saved. The only exception is when we purchase a flight to the U.S. on supporter money, we may adjust it to have a layover in a city we want to travel to. For example, last year, we went to Italy on our way to the U.S. Nate poured over numerous flight prices to find a good deal to get us there.  No matter what, flights from Kenya to the U.S. require a layover in Europe/Middle East (and with a baby, a few days to rest between long-flights is super helpful!). So, it made sense for us to plan a vacation that fit into our travel home. All extra expenses, such as our AirBnb, food and train/car travel came from our personal money. We promise to never abuse our supporter money on anything personal!

 

 

What’s it like living on support?:

Initially, it was a scary thought. It requires tons of TRUST. Trust in God to provide and trust in others to follow God’s guidance. There’s a part of us, as Americans, that clung tightly to the “do-it-ourselves” mentality. We had to let go of that, because we can’t do it ourselves…we can’t serve God in youth ministry overseas without leaning on others for support.

Since our first dive in support raising, it has been a really freeing and beautiful experience. Honestly, it paints a great picture of how the body of Christ is designed to lift one another up. Some are designed to send. We were designed to go.

We view our supporters as a team…a special group of friends and family who are partnering with us to serve the Lord in youth ministry here in Nairobi. We are all one body working together for the glory of Him!

We make it our goal to keep supporters in the loop on how ministry is going here. We post blogs, photos on social media and send out bi-annual physical updates. (FYI: physical update going out next month!) Just like with finances, we want to be transparent with our supporters on our lives and ministry.

Support us! 

Lastly, we kindly ask that you consider and pray about joining our support team. Partnering with us is a way for you to reach the international students of Nairobi for the glory of God. Any amount is deeply valued and encourages us immensely! Click here to begin the process.

Love,

Nate, Shanna & Levi Mast

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The Masts are back at Camp!

Camp Bluesky holds a special place in our hearts. If you’ve ever been a camp counselor, you understand.

WE. LOVE. CAMP.

 

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Back at Camp Bluesky…as a family of 3! 

Things have changed a bit from our first summers at Camp Bluesky (2007 and 2010), but the core of camp is still the same. The traditions of singing before mealtimes, hunting for gold rocks, making mountain group headbands,  SOCK WAR and the “Bo Bo” Cheer are present this summer with just as much heart, competition and passion as ever before!

This year looked a bit different for us, as we were now a family of 3 at camp! Levi was such a champ and loved cheering campers on during events like  “Maji Meyham” and Thursday night’s Talent Show. He was a “celebrity” of sorts around camp…campers loved having him around to play with between games. Levi and Shanna ended up staying at camp for the entirety of session 1. (They wanted to return for session 2, but both ended up getting sick for few days)

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Levi hanging out with all the counselors during Counselor Training Week. AKA being a girl magnet! 
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Hanging out with campers outside the dining tent. Campers loved Levi!
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Shanna and Levi were characters in a camp-wide game of “Clue.” They called themselves “Bessy Bless-Your-Heart” and “Little Darlin’ Daryl”

Nate is a counselor again this summer, spending 3 weeks total in a cabin with campers. It has been such a life-giving, fruitful experience so far. (He has one more week coming up in July.) Camp devos and “Crosstalk” night have sparked a lot of questions about God in the hearts of his campers.

During the first session of Camp, one of Nate’s campers committed his life to Christ. Another camper, from another religious background, experienced spiritual visions, which we believe is the Holy Spirit working in his heart. This last week, Nate’s campers were encouraged by Christian community – something many of them don’t have outside of their one week of Camp each year. One specific camper was very inquisitive about the Christian faith…he would voluntarily read his Bible every night!

After Nate returned home from Session 2, we were talking about the effectiveness of Camp Bluesky. Of all the ministries we’ve ever been a part of, Camp has proved to be SO consistently effective in connecting the hearts of students with the heart of God. Not to mention, it’s a ton of fun!

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Nate, ready to greet his campers upon arrival! He had “Elgon” (13 year old) boys two weeks in a row! 
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Nate, helping campers come up with a game plan for Maji Meyham…a camp favorite! 

 

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Nate and his cabin of Elgon boys during session 1! 

 

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Tried to grab a quick photo together during a game (Nate was the “Chumvi King” for half of camp) when a sweet camper decided to join in on the photo! 

 

***Click Here for a Video of Nate’s cabin performing a customized cabin cheer for the clean cabin checkers!

 

Lastly, another special thing about being involved in Camp Bluesky is that we are able to provide follow up to campers through our youth ministry during the school year. Camp has been a terrific avenue for us to get to know more students on a deeper level. What a great opportunity the Lord has given us!

Prayer Requests:

  • The campers who have already attended camp…especially those new in their faith or who are seeking. 
  • That God would work through Nate as a cabin counselor during Session 3. Many of these students come from a variety of faith backgrounds, including Hinduism and Islam. 
  • Pray for Levi and Shanna as they battle sinus infections and colds. (The weather is chilly here, believe it or not!) Shanna also hurt her wrist playing dodgeball at camp…pray for healing so that she can easily pick up her 25lb son! 
  • We are in need of some more monthly donors to join our support team. Pray for supporters to join our team or increase their giving as the Lord leads. Also, that our hearts would trust God to provide and not get stressed about finances. 

 

Our Bluesky Camp Staff Retreat!

Last week, we had the opportunity to spend some quality time together with the entire Camp Bluesky team on a staff retreat!

As many of you know, we’ve had a tough year. Bluesky has experienced a lot of transition, growing pains and grief. God has carried us each through many different obstacles, and getting some time to rejuvenate and bond together as a team was exactly what we needed!

We originally had planned to join Young Life of East Africa for their bi-annual staff training. (We usually team up with them for a chance to be poured into and creatively plan for the ministry.) However, Young Life training was in Rwanda, and the Camp budget wasn’t in a place to afford the travel expenses…we needed to stay local.

The new camp director, Brett, asked Shanna to brainstorm and plan some details for a retreat. (YES! She loves this kind of stuff!)

We ended up escaping to Tigoni, a small community about 45 minutes away from Nairobi. It is a beautiful area of Kenya with rolling green hills of tea fields.

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The beautiful tea fields of Kenya! If you drink Lipton tea, it is likely it came from here!

We stayed at a lovely AirBnb…a cozy lakeside house. It was gorgeous and so relaxing!

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The team went zip-lining on the first day of the retreat…such a fun experience! (Of course a camp team needs to do something ADVENTUROUS together…it only makes sense!)

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The camp team between zips! From left: Nick, Mason, Claire, Brett, Bronwyn, Shanna and Nate

Click here to see a video of Nate zip-lining! 

The second day, we each took turns leading the group in planned activities….team building games, yoga, a Bible devotion, and a guided prayer. We also visited a nearby tea farm for lunch!

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Claire led us in some yoga…it turns out we aren’t as flexible as we thought we were! 
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We packed Spikeball just in case…good thing we did! 
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The girls went on a walk in the tea fields while the guys visited the police station and sorted out the accident…praises that we had no charges and everyone was ok! 

Of course, we spent some time together as a staff discussing and brainstorming some ideas for camp. This time especially was helpful for our hearts…as with any transition of staff, change is hard. Hearing the perspectives and hearts of our new camp directors helped us gain understanding and grow in our excitement for the future of Camp Bluesky!

We saw the Lord’s hand at work during this retreat. He connected us all on a deeper level, protected our team from being harmed in a car accident (on the way back from zip-lining…everyone is okay!) and allowed us to be filled up before the busy-ness of camp season arrives.

We are so excited to see what He does through Camp Bluesky this summer!

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A new, exciting season for Camp Bluesky! 

 

 

Just a bunch of Oxymorons.

The other day, I took my 8th grade girls’ Covenant Group (Bible study) on a fun Labor Day adventure…Ice-skating!

Yes, it’s true. There’s ice-skating in Kenya! (We’ve yet to find a roller skating rink…but an ice rink… an ice rink we have.)

It was a blast. We started the day together at a local café for brunch, because we’re fancy like that. (Not really…we just wanted to avoid traffic, so brunch it was!) We packed 11 girls and 3 leaders in a school bus and headed across Nairobi to channel our inner Tara Lipinskis and test our triple axel skills. Watch out, Olympics 2022!

We shivered in the beginning and ended up sweating. We dodged fallen children, wobbly-kneed novices and speed demons. We pushed each other on these little plastic seats shaped like seals. We shaved ice up from the rink to create “snow” balls and targeted each other. We attempted backwards skating and little 360 twirls. We finished our skate time with…of all things…cotton candy. All in all, it was a marvelous day together.

Here are some moments from our trip.

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Ice-skating in Nairobi was a great adventure! It is funny though, that such a thing exists here. Kenya and ice-skating…it feels like an oxymoron.

The other day at church, the speaker preached about how the Christian life is full of oxymorons.

Dead in our sins. Alive in Christ.

The already. The not yet.

Slaves to Christ. Freedom in Christ.

Mourning our brokenness. Celebrating our forgiveness.

A sinful human with desires of the flesh. Holy and blameless.

Ice-skating reminded me of this sermon…how we are called, as believers, to live out an “oxymoronic” life. To balance the ideas that we are both sinners in need of forgiveness and sons and daughters of God. We are called to love graciously, yet to stand firm in Truth.

Jesus was the ultimate oxymoron. Born in a barn, yet King of Kings. Son of man, yet son of God. Hung out with the “least of these” and misfits, yet reigns on High. He humbly taught, yet passionately corrected. Wore a crown, yet it was made of thorns. Lived a perfect life, yet carried all our sins.

From now on, whenever I go ice-skating on the equator, I hope I am reminded of both the “oxymoronic” life Christ lived on earth, as well as the strangely balanced God-centered life he has called me to.