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God is moving, can you see it?
August 3, 2012 7:37 am
Published in: Uncategorized

(n.) The interior of the country

Mo with the giant rosemary bush

Mo (my best and oldest friend from Montana) and I got to go “up-country” a few weeks ago.  Kenyans that live in the city generally claim a different area of origin besides Nairobi.  It might be where their family originally comes from or where they were born.  During holidays the city practically clears out as urban Kenyans return to their “up-country” homes and relatives.  The setting is typically more rural, more basic, and often times more beautiful.  We had the privilege to escape the pollution and noise for 3 days, and get back to basics.

The place: the outskirts of Rurii (central Kenya)

The people: Samuel and Esther Ngarachu, Mo’s Kenyan host parents in 2008

The Ngarachus

Let me tell you, it is sure different from the city!  Better yet, let me show you…

My car after a two mile stretch of very muddy road

The rooster's final moments of life 🙁

The bloody aftermath... dinner.

Plucking the feathers off of our dinner

plucked, washed, and ready to chop up and cook

up-country stove

good morning nature

The garden in the morning

sweet pea flowers

Mo in the maize

dew on a spider trail

The Ngarachu's front yard and gate at sunrise

Bucket baths and squatty-potties, at least there was toilet paper!

All brothers!

A friend showing us his tree tomatoes, yum!

Ninja training with Mo

Esther washing fresh spinach from her garden

A curious neighbor girl coming to check out the two white ladies

Hard-working hands

Peaceful sunlit morning in the country

Brilliant starry skies at night, golden misty bird-song filled mornings.  Fresh produce, curious children, warm and welcoming neighbors, water from a hand-crank well, hospitality and endless cups of chai tea, miles of rolling farm land as far as the eye can see.  Yep, up-country was refreshing.  But more than that it was a re-centering, back to basics, re-prioritizing time.  Once in a while, you just have to escape to the country… or to the up-country.


 “Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid nature.”
-William Cowper

April 18, 2012 11:12 am
Published in: Uncategorized

I grew up in Montana. Beautiful, wild, wonderful Montana.  Rivers, mountains, valleys, wide open spaces, and fresh clean air.

Thus moving to the busy, crowded, dirty, loud city of Nairobi, Kenya has proved to be quite the transition.  Enter the grace of God.  It is only through His goodness that I have been able to adapt to this place and enjoy it too.  Never the less, some city escapes are required for former country girls to stay sane.  Good thing Kenya boasts endless opportunities for recreation and exploration!

On Good Friday, some friends and I decided to take advantage a particularly close attraction, Mount Longonot.  The mountain is actually a dormant volcano in the floor of the Great Rift Valley.  The top blew off a long time ago, leaving a vast crater.  It’s a good hardy day hike, especially if you decided to go all the way around the crater after you summit the rim.  If you find yourself with the chance to hike Mt. L, do it, the whole thing, totally worth it!


My "partners in climb" haha... Naomi and Jenny


We kept a keen eye out for wildlife and were rewarded with sightings of giraffe, zebra and lizards! No cape buffalo, thank goodness!


Our TINY chameleon friend, found on the trail.


Allllllmost to the top!


The crater! A huge forest is at the bottom, and I'm almost certain that it is full of dinosaurs and strange beasts!


Making the loop around the rim of the crater with Lake Naivasha in the distance.


Feelin' strong at the top of the peak on the far side of the rim! Whew!


Thorns everywhere! What a reminder of Christ and His suffering on Good Friday.


A great day with great ladies!


March 30, 2012 6:35 am
Published in: Uncategorized

I just turned 24… in Africa.  Crazy.

This was my first birthday away from home, and to be honest I was anxious about it.  A few weeks earlier, the first major pangs of homesickness started to hit.  I was sitting on a friend’s porch when I called my sister to wish her a happy 30th birthday.  She answered and I could hear the lively cacophony of a busy restaurant in the background; laughter, music, the clink of dishes and silverware.  Then I heard several variations of “Bess?”, “Is that her?”, “In Africa?!” “Hi Bess!!”… my parents and all of her friends shouted their hellos from the table.  It was a quick sweet call.  A few days afterward I opened my inbox and found photos from my mom from their trip to see Hannah and celebrate her birthday.

My beautiful sister Hannah in Portland, OR

It was so good to see, but I also felt really far away.  I felt like I missed out.

We always celebrate my birthday with a party at my folks house in Montana.  I like parties, the bigger the better.  And I really like people, the more the merrier.  I’ve been called a “Birthday Diva”, and that’s ok because it’s true… I LOVE birthdays, especially my own.  March 21st is the first day of spring, the official turn of bitter winter to the season of new life.  This date can be tricky in Montana though, winter can still be holding on, or the snow may have yielded to sunshine and new buds.  We always pray for sun.  My dad lights the charcoal grill, and we pack the house with friends.  Everyone talks, eats, and laughs into the night.  Sometimes a friend will bring an instrument and bless us with music as the light fades.  It’s my kind of celebration.

But what would that look like here in Kenya?!  I’ve only been here for six months, I don’t have a grill, and I don’t have my family or any of my old friends from home here with me.  I found myself longing for home, for my familiar, for my birthday tradition.

Cue the family of God.  I woke up on the morning of the 21st to an invitation to coffee from my sweet friend Sharday.  Upon opening my front door, I found streamers and signs from my incredible neighbors!

Please notice the drawing of my cat jumping over my car! Thanks Silas, Micaiah, and Allison!

They snuck over and put them on without me noticing!  Such a great surprise.  After coffee I walked into the office to even more streamers, treats and love from more neighbors!

My decorated office, yay!

After a great skype call (and dance) with my best friend Mo in Seattle, my co-workers and neighbors then took me out to lunch (Chinese, yep they have Chinese food here!).  Afterwards my friend Jenny called and asked me to dessert!

Fruit tart and blueberry cake with Jenny... before and after.

After a food-coma induced nap, I walked over to my neighbors (The wonderful Levander family) for dinner!  They went all out with deep dish pizza and boston creme pie with sprinkles!

Silas and Micaiah, my birthday ninjas!

Heart, and stomach full, I logged onto skype and chatted with my brother Sam in Chile, my sister in Oregon, and my parents in Montana.  Hearing those familiar dear voices from home was just what I needed to cap off a very good day.  I felt so much love, even from across the world.  But the fun was far from over.  On weekend, a few friends and I went to the elephant orphange just outside of Nairobi and got to see those pachyderms up close and personal… so wrinkly!

Elephants after their mud-bath

Afterwards it was time for a… BBQ!  My favorite!  A bunch of friends came over with, an old-school grill showed up, and we started cooking, eating and enjoying the evening.

The men, doing what men do...

Cake and singing... just before the attack!

The night concluded with a fair bit of mischief, in-which I was pelted with water-balloons to honor my “bath-day”.  Apparently it is a Kenyan tradition to throw water onto the b-day person to “wash” them for their new year.  If you look close you can see a little yellow piece of water balloon stuck to my shirt… I’ll get you guys back!

These trouble makers made sure I got soaked! My Kenyan brothers: Phil, Ezekiel, and Jacktone

A fun, soggy time was had by all.  Thanks friends, new and old, state-side and Africa-side, for making my birthday really really great!



January 5, 2012 8:11 am
Published in: Uncategorized

“Sometimes you get tired, but the joy remains,” said Elicah as she reclined on the couch and closed her eyes.  Insects filled the night with their symphony, and the last dregs of black tea floated in our mugs.  I had asked her what it is like to be “Mama” to so many, including me.  Never have I met a woman with a more joyful, servant’s heart.  Every year new daughters from America, and sons from the slums of Kenya come into her fold… there is always room for more.  I have a lot to learn about love  and servanthood from Elicah Wetindi.

Tired but joyful.  I would say that perfectly sums up my December.

Tana and I shared an adventuresome roadtrip to visit nearly 100 rural Kenyan kids in the hills of Machakos, where we planted trees together, danced, sang and prayed with nearly 100 children.  Priceless.

On-Field Media took a field trip to the mountains of Kijabe, Kenya to do some filming.  I and three families (+kids) hiked into some hotsprings and gathered footage for a film we are working on.  Monkey calls, a distant waterfall, and views of the Great Rift Valley far below…not bad for a day at the office!

Christmas came swiftly, but thanks to 80+ degree weather, incredibly caring neighbors, and a healthy dose of Christmas cookies, I didn’t find myself feeling too terribly homesick.  I was able to spend Christmas Eve caroling with all my neighbors in a packed joy-filled living room.  I then was invited to sleep over with a wonderful missionary family, and woke up to giggles of delight from their two small sons as they ran downstairs on Christmas morning.  The beauty of Jesus was magnified this season, and I sat back an marveled at the gift.

I found myself the recipient of incredible generosity once more on the day after Christmas.  My Kenyan host family from 2009, the Wetindi’s, invited me to stay at their “upcountry” home in RURAL western Kenya.  Kenyans who live in the city often have a rural home where they were raised/where extended family remains.  During the holidays the city practically empties as Kenyans head “upcountry.”  Lugari is a place where the day seems to slide by slowly, where maize grows high, red dirt roads stretch ever long through fields, and there is always one more cup of tea to be had.  7 hours on a bus, 1 hour on a mini bus, and 1 hour on a piki (motorcycle) will get you there in time for the sun to set.  For five days I enjoyed long walks, fresh produce, meat, and milk, no running water, gorgeous countryside, curious kids shrieking “mzungu!!” (white person!), star-filled night skies, and fresh clean air.  Every night found me collapsing into bed, completely exhausted but heart full to the brim.

Thank you Tana, team mates, neighbors, and Wetindi family & friends for making December truly incredible.

Planting a tree in Machakos, Kenya

Kijabe, Kenya

Tea time!  Kenyan chai = black tea, whole milk, and sugar

Elicah Wetindi, aka my Kenyan Mama. Lugari, Kenya

Obed and Joseph. Lugari, Kenya

Joab brought us fresh bananas from the river. Lugari, Kenya

1, 2, 3 kiddos on a bike

Joseph, Nico, David, Joab, Rozy,and  Benard sharing a funny moment.  Good people, wonderful friends.

Apparently I looked strange, haha.

Tree farmer & family. Lugari, Kenya

Walking home before the rain. Lugari, Kenya

Joyful friend Joab. Lugari, Kenya

Gathering wood by the river. Lugari, Kenya

Roy, neighborhood kids and grain for porridge

Nightfall in Lugari, Kenya

Piga Picha (can I take your photo)?  All smiles.

So young, so strong

Roasted maize under the stars. Delicious. Lugari, Kenya

Sunrise in Lugari, Kenya.

November 14, 2011 11:15 am
Published in: Uncategorized

I have a mailing address! If you wanna make a Montana girl in a big African city smile, send your hand-written love here…

Bess Brownlee 
c/o OFM
Box 21171
AIM International Services
Wilson Airport
Nairobi, Kenya 00505

(it is best not to send anything bigger than a manila envelope, or else it probably won’t get to me… and if it does, I will have to pay big bucks to pick up a package, boo!)  It will take about two weeks for mail to get to me from the states.

Miss and love you all!!

October 7, 2011 10:45 am
Published in: Uncategorized

I’M HERE!  AHHHHHH!  Many hugs, pounds of luggage, inflight movies, and tiny-weenie airplane bathrooms later I touched down in Kenya!  All of our luggage made it too… well mostly.  Turns out Delta doesn’t think very highly of iMacs traveling to Africa… they flat out refused to check my computer in it’s neatly and (very) securely packed box.  Beasts.  After some very ugly crying at the check-in counter I accepted defeat and handed my other arm iMac over to AIM in Atlanta for safe-keeping.  Still fannaggling (yup, I said it) a way to get it here, by the end of Oct, but it looks like it might work out.  Keep that in your prayers, I can’t really do my job with On-Field Media without it…eeee.


Any who, all 13 of us new full-termers (those of us that will be in Africa for 2+ years) and 6 kiddos stumbled out of Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi late on the 30th of September.  Praise God.  The familiar smells of the city met my nose; diesel, body, sweat, fast food, and trash.  A cacophony of shouts, horns, wheels, music greeted my ears, all bringing the Nairobi I experienced two years ago back to center stage.  I’m in Africa.  This is going to be my home.  Whoa.


We spent a few days recovering (sleeping) at an AIM run guesthouse tucked away behind walls draped with flowering vines.  Mayfield.  A little refuge in a bustling city. A constant flow of missionaries surged through Mayfield everyday… each bringing their own tales from all over Africa.  What a place. Our group grew there, as new full-term brothers and sisters from the Brazil, England, Canada joined us for Africa Based Orientation (ABO)

While at Mayfield I was kidnapped several times… don’t worry Mom, it was people I knew!  Fellow Nairobi missionaries Tana and Michelle took me out for lunch (who knew they had sushi in Kenya?!) and frozen yogurt (didn’t even know that existed here!)  I think I experienced Western culture shock instead of African.  I am looking forward to getting to know these sassy ladies more, as well as discovering this crazy city.  The next day I got to sit-in on On-Field Media’s (OFM) weekly project update/devotional/prayer meeting.  It was surreal to be sitting in the offices I had been working for over a year to get to… to meet the team that I had only emailed/Skyped, and to hear all about their recent filming adventures (eh hem, Madagascar!)   They also took me to experience Ethiopian food, which did not disappoint.


Still fighting jet-lag, we stuffed ourselves into two vans and headed 2 hours out of the city for ABO in Machakos, Kenya.  Our orientation is being held at a bible college, full of energetic and welcoming Kenyan students.  Jacaranda trees with purple blossoms, thorny acacias, and extremely loud birds fill the campus, which stretches out near the base of high terraced green hills.  Oh and fresh air, glorious fresh air which the city seriously lacks.  Red dirt sticks to our shoes, and stray thorns have already maimed a few skirts… good thing I packed that sewing kit, eh mom?  The food has been delicious; chapati (Kenyan tortillas), savory meat stews, sautéed sukumawekee (shredded kale with onions), oranges, papaya, and bananas.  And  chai… don’t forget the endless chai!

ABO lasts for three weeks, with the goal of orienting us to African culture, living, ministry, communication and much more.  It has only the third day of ABO and my mind is heavy with information!  Yesterday I had the extreme privilege of hearing everyone’s stories of how God brought them to Africa.  Needless to say, laughter was abundant, as were tears.  All of our journeys have been laden with adventure, surprise, hardship, and hope, with a call to a life of purpose singing strongly over everything.  And this is just the beginning.  My heart is already squeezing at the thought of saying goodbye to all of these beautiful new friends at the end of our three weeks.  We will scatter to every corner of Africa in a few short weeks… thank the Lord for Skype.


I miss all of you so much.  Leaving home has felt like ripping up lots of deep roots… Montana has been my home, my world, my normal for so long.  It is my prayer that God will plant me in good soil here in Africa, and that I would grow and thrive here, flowering and growing fruit in every season.  It is a privilege and gift to come back to Africa.  I know there will be dry spells, and fierce storms to stand strong through, but I am comforted by the knowledge that I have a constant gardener… who will never stop tending His little tree.

 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, 
   whose confidence is in him. 
They will be like a tree planted by the water 
   that sends out its roots by the stream. 
It does not fear when heat comes; 
   its leaves are always green. 
It has no worries in a year of drought 
   and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jer. 17: 7-8

September 22, 2011 10:13 am
Published in: Uncategorized

That’s all I have left in Montana!!  BAH!

I can’t believe this is all happening.  I can’t believe I sent in my last packet of $$ support yesterday.  Or that I learned to ride a motorcycle this weekend, AND got in and out of the DMV in 40 minutes.  I can’t believe that so many of my beloved friends came out to my house and hugged me till my ribs (nearly) cracked.  I can’t believe we went through more than 60 burgers.  I can’t believe I watched my best friend drive away as the sun came over the mountains, and knowing we wouldn’t see each other for many months.  I can’t believe that my life will soon be packed into four bags.  I can’t believe that next week I will be IN AFRICA.

My head can’t believe it.

But my heart can.  Because God is that wild.  Because He has been making a way for us to have this adventure together since before I was even born.  Because He is always up to more than I can possibly fathom.  Because I’m His.

 “My beloved is mine and I am his” 

Song of Solomon 2:16

It’s go time.  Harvest time.  Hemisphere-hoppin’ time.  New chapter time.  Time for life as I know it to get turned on its head.  Africa time.

“Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,

for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Thank you, wonderful family of God, for walking along side me thus far… we have many miles to go, if you are willing I would love to keep sharing the journey.  Stay tuned… (next post from Africa!)

August 11, 2011 10:11 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Africa Inland Mission has MOVED to their new U.S. headquarters in Georgia!  Bye bye New York!

Why should you care?

WELL…  all communication and contact concerning me/my ministry/your donations and all financial support should be directed THERE!

Where the peaches are!  No, really!



Their new snazzy address is…

Africa Inland Mission
P.O. Box 3611
Peachtree City, GA 30269-7611


Thanks so much for your attention… and now, back to your goings-on!